Thought experiment – living offline: a world without the digital

I am writing this blog post, sitting on my sofa at home. On my lap I have my laptop, next to me lays my phone and in the background the TV is playing a random show on Netflix. Since half an hour or so I haven’t written anything new for this post, because I am not completely focused on anything. While I scroll through my Instagram, not really paying attention to the pictures on there but just to get rid of the annoying circles around the Instagram stories, I listen to the sounds of the TV but everything just goes in one ear and out the other. I am constantly exposed to the digital.

I feel like we spend every minute of our days in the digital world, voluntarily or involuntarily, it doesn’t matter. We are surrounded and influenced by digital technologies in almost every sector of society, so I was asking myself: What would a world look like without any digital technologies or devices?

Where does the digital influence us?


Digital technologies surrounds us every second in our days, even there where we cannot see them. They can be found in for example the health sector as AI-enabled frontier technologies are helping to save lives, diagnose diseases and extend life expectancy or in education in form of virtual learning environments and distance learning. Also in public services digital technologies help these services becoming more accessible and accountable through blockchain-powered systems, and less bureaucratically burdensome as a result of AI assistance. Big data can also support more responsive and accurate policies and programmes. And all of this is most likely not even a tenth of what is influenced and developed through digital technologies.

Originally, this was supposed to be a post about life without any digital devices at all. However, as we all can agree I think, this is more a type of topic for going over the 1000 word count limit. Hence, I will focus on how social media influences our daily lives and what it might look like if all of a sudden the social media world would disappear.

A lifetime on social media

This morning I got the ‘screen time’ notification from my phone and I was quite shocked when I saw how much time I spend on it. It really didn’t feel like I spend so much time on my phone but when I look back at it it’s true. I catch myself looking on my screen at least every 15 minutes and all this added up during the whole day leads to this immense screen time: 4 hours and 24 minutes a day. WHAT? 4 HOURS AND 24 MINUTES A DAY!!!

Screenshot of my screen time on my phone

This is not okay.

4 hours and 24 minutes per day is 135h a month, 1.620h a year. Let’s say I started using my phone around the age of 13, then my screen time would theoretically be 76.140h when I turn 70. With 4h24min a day this results in 3172.5 days or 8.69178082 years (if I calculated it correctly of course).

And this is only on my phone. Mostly social media.

Average Time Spent On Tasks In A Lifetime

According to the WHO, the average person will spend about 6 years and 8 months on social media in their lifetime based on the projections for social media use in 2020. This is of course not exactly true, since some people start using social media later than others and this statistic was calculated, assuming the average person will have a lifespan of 72 years.

When breaking down these numbers, a persons individual social media use could look like this:

Time Spent On Social Media In A Lifetime
This statistic includes some, but not all social media networks and therefore should only be seen as projection

What would happen if the internet and social media disappeared?

Imagine, from tomorrow on there would be no more social media. Nowhere, and it also won’t ever come back. What would happen?

Naturally, everyone would start wondering why Facebook, Instagram and all the other big players disappeared and what to do when they can’t access their favorite apps and websites. Remember when Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp were down? We were is a state of confusion, frustration and helplessness when these Meta technologies weren’t accessible for less that a day. Now, if we take away all the other social networks, we would be flooded with world wide complaints, panic, chaos, maybe also aggression. Besides this wave of frustration, without social media, people would call each other more often since messenger apps would not exist anymore. This ultimately results in growing interactions in general as people start talking more with each other instead of just texting a quick message or writing an email. Who knows, maybe we would write letters again? Eventually they start meeting up with each other in person, going outside, having fun in real life and not only online. In addition to this, we would gain more interpersonal skills again, probably read more books and generally spend more time in our environment which can result in the increase of our physical and mental health. Old fashioned things and activities would be more prominent again as well.

On the other hand, everything becomes slower and less accessible. For instance, online classes would not be possible anymore. And specifically in this time we are dependent on reliable internet connection and online studying. Without social media or the internet, no online research and online communication at all would be possible. This loss of communication is fatal in todays society. Also, many jobs connected to the internet and social media would fall away, leaving millions of people unemployed. Think of all the people who make money being youtubers or influencers or the social media managers of big firms.

There are definitely way more changes that would happen once social media and the internet disappeared and this is just a sort of brainstorming from my side, thinking about how much digital equipment I rely on each day.

Your screen time

I know it is not possible to go without digital technologies anymore today, but it might be nice to cut down on some unnecessary technological inventions that you personally really don’t need. Maybe think for yourself, if the internet was gone now, what would you miss? How much time do you spend online and what do you really do when you’re online? What would affect you immediately and what could you technically leave behind? Maybe living a little less online isn’t even that bad, right?