I’m just back from a two week break in the Costa del Sol – a lovely town called Nerja where friends of ours graciously let us use their apartment. It was a much needed break from Ireland (weather included) and this year for the first time a break also from the Internet. In the past year or so I’ve spent more personal time online. I have Internet access on the phone and on my oh-so-portable Asus Eee, with the result that there is hardly any time I am not ‘networked’. To be fair, I don’t bring these devices to the bedroom and they’re not much use to me on the bike for the 20 minutes it takes me to get to work… but at most other times I am tapped in to the web.
I did bring the phone and the laptop with me on the hols, but (thankfully in hindsight) I didn’t manage to get any form of Internet access where we were staying. I’m not an Internet junkie, (well I’m certainly not as hooked as a lot of people I know) but the first few days of cold turkey, of not knowing who was doing what, of being afraid I was missing something, were a little harder than I expected.
What’s different is Web 2.0. In Web 1.0 land, the Internet was my job and proved useful for finding out things and buying things. In Web 2.0 land, the Internet has become much more personally meaningful. I do things that have much more personal or emotional significance. It is another place for me to express myself, share ideas, chat, engage, catch-up, have a laugh and so on. I used to do this in the pub, but I don’t seem to go there as much these days. The Internet certainly won’t replace the pub or other offline (traditional) ways we interact with each other, but it is complementing and supplementing them.
This new social dimension of the Internet is great, but it does mean that we never/rarely switch off. As the network grows there will be fewer places we can go where we are not online. When time-out means socialising with friends, this is fine. When time-out means chilling out in my own space, ‘me-time’; it now involves switching off all our devices. How long have you gone recently with all your devices switched off?