6 Reasons why you are never ‘Offline’ in a Network Society

The ‘Offline Phenomena’

Although the network society has facilitated worldwide communication through the advancements in technology, unfortunately we cannot escape from being either in contact with technological devices or with the Internet (Code.org, 2016). The use of technology has become so natural and is a normal element in our life that sometimes we do not even realise that we have become so dependent on it (Nawfel, 2014). Till now, one could only mention very few places where we can truly be alone. In fact, it is commonly stated that being offline has become the new luxury that everyone desires albeit companies want each and every place to be totally connected. In other words, this would mean that we will never be alone again (VPRO, 2016).

Illustration by Shania Camenzuli

1. The dichotomy between the online and offline world merely exists

Having technology so embedded in our everyday life made it extremely difficult to live in the real world! We are no longer able to decide when to take a break from technology. Even when we are simply walking, most of us walk with our heads down to use our devices rather than looking at what is surrounding us. Nathan Jurgenson argues that ‘there is no such thing as offline’ and that social media is now an integral part of us (Nawfel, 2014).

2. We are experiencing a feeling of obligation

Be it either a nice landscape or a nice event, as active social media users, we feel almost obliged to document the thing to then share it with the rest of the world through our accounts. From time to time, we feel the need to post a picture, a statement or a video, in order to keep the account active and our audience interested. Whenever we receive a message or an email notification, we feel that we must respond in a short period of time (Nawfel, 2014).

3. We could be physically offline, but mentally online!

It is interesting to say that we could possibly have a moment when we are not using Internet platforms or technological devices yet, for sure we never forget about social media. We cannot distinctly detach the online status from the offline status as in fact they are complexly intertwined. Having said that, whenever we think that we have detached ourselves from media, most probably this will not be the case. Technology has massively influenced our online mindset and we are now facing the online/offline phenomena (Nawfel, 2014). Social media forces us to alter the way we look at everyday life and although there are many opinions whether we could mentally disconnect or not, our behaviour leans more towards remaining connected.

Illustration by Shania Camenzuli

4. 24/7

Time is no longer relevant! The introduction of social media meant that we could be reached everyday, everywhere, and at any time during the day and even at night. Unfortunately enough, the population has become modern slaves of our technological devices and of notifications (VPRO, 2016). To give an instance, being present online meant that various jobs or organisations no longer have fixed working hours. Instead, employees are almost expected to go overboard and work overtime by answering e-mails both in the evenings and on weekends. The network society makes us feel that we no longer have a private life as there is always something or someone who interferes.

5. We do not want to be alone for too long

Living in this globalised, ongoing network society, forces the population to appreciate much more than ever the time that we could spend alone. There are those few people who manage to survive without any social media accounts as they are very conscious of the impact technologies have on their personalities (Marsh, 2017). Yet, social media constructs our identity and automatically this means that we cannot detach ourselves for so long mainly those generations who are familiar with technology (Nawfel, 2014). Technology is a great source of distraction and even if we want to reduce our online presence, most of us feel the need to communicate, socialise, and be knowledgeable on what is happening around us. This need makes it almost impossible to live offline for a long period of time while still participating actively in society.

6. Easy, Cheap, Fast and in Real-Time!

To look at the positive side of it all, social media enhances the ability to communicate instantly and in a utopian scenario, as geography is no longer an issue. Furthermore, large number of recipients could be messaged at the same time. Social media made it easy to sustain relationships based on shared interests and this helps to enhance the community rather than weaken it (Wellman & Hampton, 1999 p. 649–650; Wellman et al., 2002, p.152).

This blog is a project for Study Unit DGA3008, University of Malta.

References

Code.org. (2016, June 28). What is the Internet? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dxcc6ycZ73M&list=PLzdnOPI1iJNfMRZm5DDxco3UdsFegvuB7&t=187s

Marsh, S. (2017, September 12). “There’s more time to look and listen to what’s around you’: readers on life without a mobile. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/12/more-time-to-look-and-listen-readers-on-life-without-mobile

Nawfel, L. (2014, November 7). Are we Ever Offline? Medium. https://medium.com/@laurennawfel/are-we-ever-offline-eba2a3014e33

VPRO Documentary. (2016, June 7). Offline is the new luxury — VPRO documentary — 2016 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzp6g1H52wQ

Wellman, B., Boase, J., & Chen, W. (2002). The Networked Nature of Community: Online and Offline. IT&Society, 1(1), 151–165. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.207.2863&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Wellman, B., & Hampton, K. (1999). Living Networked On and Offline. Contemporary Sociology, 28(6), 648–654. https://www-jstor-org.ejournals.um.edu.mt/stable/2655535?sid=primo&origin=crossref&seq=5#metadata_info_tab_contents