Dutch internet advisor happier in five weeks off-line


I occasionally listen to the Radio Online programme on Saturday afternoon from Dutch internet guru Francisco van Jole. On 27 December 2008 I heard Jim Stolze (35, internet advisor) explain that to his surprise his life was happier since he went totally off-line on 1 December. He did this for scientific research on internet usage and happiness by Twente University. One of the questions raised in this research is: Can you do without the internet in modern society?

Stolze is addicted to internet for his work and for his social contacts. The first thing he does after he is woken up by his IPhone is checking his e-mail, next he makes his tea reading mails. What a difference with me, starting with my newspaper as I mentioned one blog ago! At work he is permanently online through his phone and laptop. His last action before going to bed is again checking his mail on his phone.

Interestingly enough I read these details on Stolze’s life this morning in the Hart en Ziel supplement of my newspaper de Volkskrant. And only after that I went online to check the websites of the radio programme, the newspaper and the project.   

Before pulling the plug out of his personal virtual life Stolze was greatly worried what it would do to his social and personal life and happiness. In his first week he had phantom pain and other cold turkey signs and he missed his Twitter friends and colleagues. But a few those contacted him in the old-fashioned way by phone or sending him letters with news from blogs by regular mail. Stolze did that also, he also met with a few of his virtual friends in person. They now are becoming his real friends.

Family contacts improved

His off-line contacts also improved, he realises. He’ll now take the car to visit his father, rather than e-mailing him news about his life. He is astonished that he now in the morning has more attention and time for his two children and in the evening for his wife. The IPhone and its bleeps was not anymore disturbing the contact between them. He also did his work with better concentration. 

Stolze was allowed to get online again on 1 January, but did not do that until 6 January http://twitter.com/JimStolze , as he was fearing a massive number of messages in his Inbox.  But he is keeping his mailbox closed until he has finished writing a manifest against the overdose of e-mails that is plaguing all of us. In 2008 the world e-mailed 250 billion messages, and 95 percent of those are useless, Stolze claims.

Radio first

I find this a fascinating story as it also illustrates how various media play a role in my life at 61. I first heard it on the radio in my kitchen, a week later I read a nearly full page feature story on it in my newspaper, with the web site of the Virtual Happiness. This triggered me to write this blog and go online for the latest info and links.

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