Online, offline – is there a difference anymore?

Do you require a digital detox from time to time, a period of logged-off real life? Maybe you are generally skeptical and wary of big data and algorithms taking over? Or are you enthusiastic about constant connectivity, technology augmenting your reality and “the internet of things”? All of the above? Or do you just use the internet and your digital devices without any deep thoughts about your motives or how this connectivity changes your life, personally, and society, in general?

One reason I am asking you this, is that some of my friends and some colleagues at mediaman are doing that digital detox thing in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day that the Germans call “between the years” (“zwischen den Jahren”). Quite honestly, I don’t understand this desire or the need to specifically set aside a special time to be offline. As if being online kept me from doing more meaningful things or having more meaningful human interactions. As if offline was more “real” than online. Thinking about this I remembered an essay written by Nathan Jurgenson last summer about the IRL (in real life) fetish. He wrote:

Facebook doesn’t curtail the offline but depends on it. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media. The photos posted, the opinions expressed, the check-ins that fill our streams are often anchored by what happens when disconnected and logged-off. The Web has everything to do with reality; it comprises real people with real bodies, histories, and politics.

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