To understand the concept of offline, one has to define the pretext they are talking about. A look at the history of the usage of this word (which is as old as the Internet itself) and how it has changed over the decades will bring one closer to grasping the advancements that have happened in the world of internet technologies and will also make it clear as to when and in what context the word can be used. Being offline, in very raw terms, means being disconnected to a network. In the case of Internet, the meaning and versatility of the word stems from whether it is used in conjunction with virtual personas, content or services (we can include sub-networks in this list as well). This text calls upon the need to educate ourselves about the internet and the various ‘states’ in which the aforementioned ‘objects’ inhabit it. By doing so, we can hope to answer the primitive questions in mind, such as what does ‘offline’ (or ‘being offline’) means and what can and cannot stay offline.
IOT AND THE IDEA OF OFFLINE
With the advent of smart devices, numerous sensors surround us, often obscured from our vision, passively tracking our activities, from our sleep cycles to our heartbeats, from the TV shows we frequently watch to the type of cuisine we recently ordered (commonly called the Internet of Things). Although many of us are aware of them, very few realize that these devices share data on the internet which is available for third party entities to draw insights into our behavior, our lifestyle and even our orientations and inclinations (this is how free social networking services like WhatsApp, Google+, Facebook, etc. earn money). Today, being connected is no more an active or a conscious choice, as it was during the early days of the Internet. This has been the hot topic in many current discourses among online communities and brings up the question that ‘Are we ever offline?’
Even if one successfully manages to turn off their devices, their virtual presence in the Internet lingers. Our digital footprints never die: once any data is uploaded in the internet, it never gets removed. And as discussed earlier, people have their entire life recorded online. Think about people’s Instagram or Facebook profiles. Even when they are not connected to the network (physically offline), they occupy the online space and their profiles are available for scrutinizing. A review of a standard Facebook profile can tell where an individual lives, expose personal photos, relationship status, opinions, political affiliations and even recent check-in details. These are typically referred as the ‘online’ presenceof an individual in marketing terminology, although it does not require the individual to remain online 24/7.
OFFLINE PSYCHOLOGY AND FOMO
Research shows how individuals have developed a gluttonous habit of being connected to the internet at all times, often exhibiting the characteristics of a drug addict. Internet addiction is now considered a disorder by psychological associations around the worldand given the ubiquitous nature of Internet now, its research has attained a lot of momentum in the recent years. Dr. Ivan K. Goldberg in 1995 compared its model to that of pathological gambling. The fear of being offline is often associated with the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO, which manifests itself in scenarios where individuals frequently check their emails, their Facebook and Twitter notifications and feeds. This tendency is especially true in the case of online games where the risks and rewards are high, and a mid-game disconnection means an enormous loss of effort and time.
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