May 7, 2013 at 11:34 AM ET
Paul Miller felt overwhelmed by the Internet. So the stressed-out online tech writer underwent a Web detox, unplugging himself from the wired world for an entire year.
No Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. No Google searches, no smartphones or even texting.
“I was so Zen. So bliss. It just was really great. I was really free from all that stress and all that distraction,” he recalled Tuesday for TODAY’s Willie Geist. “I found loneliness and boredom really cool and novel at first, and it really made me creative.”
Before he disconnected, Miller felt he couldn't keep up with all the Internet offered. "There was always more, always more. I never won," he said. "You can’t beat Twitter. Five seconds later, there’s a lot more."
So, at 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2012, Miller unplugged his life. He refused to look at other people’s phone pictures or have friends use the Internet on his behalf. His only wired connection were the articles he stored on a thumb drive for his employer, tech websiteThe Verge, which paid him to chronicle his experiment.
At first, Miller read books and exercised. But he quickly discovered that the things that made him feel overwhelmed while connected to the Web were the same things that troubled him while living without it.
“Eventually, I just sort of fell in on myself and I started realizing that my problems with productivity and dissatisfaction in life weren’t the Internet’s fault,” he said. “They manifest differently with and without the Internet, and leaving the Internet didn’t fix everything.”
Miller's self-imposed exile also made it difficult to connect with distant loved ones. “I really missed Skyping with my family ... I’ve got brand new nieces and nephews I haven’t Skyped with. That was tough,” he admitted.
“I guess I took it for granted that the Internet is where everybody is now. Not everybody else quit the Internet, and so it was really hard to stay in touch with people.”
Miller returned to the World Wide Web a few weeks ago with an article recounting his entire journey. Since then, he’s found the transition back tougher than he expected.
“I thought I would take right to it and just look at all the funny videos on YouTube and just have a great time,” he said. Instead, he found himself “really overwhelmed” again.
“I’m not that good at the Internet yet. I was really panicked,” he said. “I think we take for granted how difficult and how much of our mind is consumed trying to use the Internet. It’s not easy.”