Forget the hippie communes of the 60s which housed disenfranchised youths on organic farms with minimal utility services. Unplugging from your digital devices and reconnecting with the physical world is what it currently means to live off-grid. This 21st century off-grid lifestyle is as much a human concept as it is an environmental one.
So how did we get here?
When the smartphone was invented it represented a massive leap in technological evolution. The conveniences it bestows on us is nothing short of miraculous. It has given us instant access to information, empowered us to find and connect with our ‘tribes’, and made the world a smaller, more tolerant place.
But it has its drawbacks.
It has left us feeling mentally and physically fatigued from the hours spent in front of our screens. And it’s fundamentally changing the way we interact with each other and the world around us.
We started waking up to our smartphones, and taking it to bed with us.
We’re now accustomed to sitting at cafes simultaneously carrying on conversations whilst checking social media notifications.
Our phones accompany us everywhere we go and when we forget to bring it - or worse, if we lose it - we feel extremely anxious.
Indeed, the smartphone has taken over our lives.
People - particularly Generation Z - are getting tired of being controlled by digital devices. So they’re going off-grid, and underground to get their lives back.
We’re social creatures, not social media creatures.
Our digital devices are distracting us from really living in the present moment and fully enjoying the company of those we say we care most about.
In an insightful post on Medium, Jesse Weaver writes: “The more time spent staring into your phone the less present you are in the moment, and the more the foundation of a shared experience shrinks.”
So the off-grid offline movement is about a digital revolution - using digital technology to enhance our lives and deepen our relationships, not replace real life and create superficial relationships.
It’s why digital detox days are becoming more common: people recognise the benefits of ‘unplugging’. It frees up time to spend in ways that make us happy and allows us to enjoy time with the people we care about.
Broadcasting is ‘out’.
Large droves of people are moving to more private sites such as Snapchat where online broadcasting is rejected in favour of personal connection as it encourages real-time real-life digital story-telling.
And amplifying our every thought online is increasingly considered a faux pas. It’s now all about curating our thoughts and projecting them in a purposeful, meaningful way. As all forms of communication should be.
Keeping special moments special.
Saturated social-media feeds are diluting special events and party experiences. You only have to look at the increasing number of couples asking guests not to post wedding photos on social media and the increasing number of music festivals that ban the use of smartphones from their venues.
Habitas is one such popular music festival that flies largely under the radar. It employs an application system to keep the exclusive guest list to around 200. Prospective attendees are asked to complete an application that requires them to write an essay on why they should be considered. A true ‘insiders’ event.
The rise of conscious travel also indicates demand for authentic travel experiences. Conscious travellers are increasingly seeking out travel destinations that are off the beaten track and off-grid, where the natural environment is the highlight of the journey - not access to free wi-fi.
Not on Facebook? How cool.
And then there’s the decision to opt out of social media altogether. Some people are even choosing to delete their Facebook profiles. Keeping a low online profile is THE status symbol in a world of personal branding, because it’s rare. And because it’s rare, that makes it a valuable commodity.
In his article “Are you over-connected?” for BBC Future, Tom Chatfield states “being uncontactable has become exceptional, outlandish, a brand of luxury and distinction – or, depending on your perspective, a source of escalating anxiety in itself.”
We at COSSAC happen to believe in the former.
So instead of shallow digital connections, choose face-to-face contact. Instead of being available everywhere and at anytime, cherish your privacy and guard your time. Instead of mindlessly consuming digital content, look up and breathe in the fresh air.
In fact, why not unplug after you’ve read this? Ready, set… go!