Paul Miller swears off the Internet for one year; checks Facebook on Day 3

Image adapted from XKCD

Paul Miller is a Senior Editor for competing tech news blog The Verge. About a week and a half ago, Miller started a challenge he had set for himself that no one has tried in the history of mankind. His challenge was to not use the Internet for a full year. Computers are fair game, but to keep from being tempted, he turned in his smartphone for a Nokia brick style dumbphone. He would continue his work as editor, but without connecting to the internet to collaborate with his co-workers. His tweet at 11:59 EDT April 30th signaled his last online act for a year. Or so he thought.

His first few posts about the endeavor sounded promising. He had a positive outlook on the upcoming year. Everything was going fine, until he indulged a new habit he had gained since leaving the Internet.

You see, since Marvel’s The Avengers had been released on Friday, Miller had attended the film every day since its release. He could have found a show time using moviefone.com. He could have even called moviefone.com for start times. Instead he consulted a newspaper for the Tuesday afternoon showing at the IMAX theater. He had to take a taxi, but it was worth it to see the film in the high pixel density that IMAX provides. IMAX movies are in 3D by default, so he wears an eye patch under the 3D glasses to cancel the effect.

After the movie, Miller knew he had a party he was supposed to be at that evening, but couldn’t remember the details. He was used to being able to access his online calendar at any time. He’s not allowed to ask others to use the internet, so he couldn’t call anyone that he knew would use their calendar to give him the details. Miller got around this problem by systematically walking into hotels and asking if they had any parties that night.

He was a little worn out after his search and needed a little pick me up before the party. He stopped into a coffee shop that he had never been to before. While in line, he did a double-take when he saw his best friend’s girlfriend playing tonsil hockey with some frenchman. He pulled out his Nokia brick phone and frantically clicked through his contacts list and realized that he hadn’t actually entered any contacts. It was only emergency numbers and customer service. He knew that all he had to do to get the number was visit the friend’s Facebook page. This rational thinking justified addictive triggers and caused him to black out. He doesn’t remember the following.

He shoved 20 year old graphic design major Jennifer Lim off her stool, grabbed her laptop and logged into his Facebook page. A wave of habitual use overtook him. He started posting to his friend’s walls, sharing George Takei photos, clicking links. His eyes dilated. He began to breathe heavily. He started typing 2,000 words per minute and the computer keys began to smoke. He posted 42 status updates in 2 minutes. Those around him at the time recall the scene as “frightening”. By the time paramedics arrived on the scene to treat Lim’s injuries from being flung from her computer, Miller was in the throes of a seizure on the floor from Facebook overdose.

Paul Miller has fully recovered, and no one had the heart to tell him what had happened. So if you see him on the street, congratulate him on his successful journey. It’s not like he’ll read this.

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