If you are reading this right now, you’re online. It is estimated that there were 2.1 billion Internet users worldwide, but what would happen if suddenly we were all unplugged and offline, back to basics if you will?

In a new survey of 1,000 people, 53% said they felt upset when they were denied access to the Internet, and 40% said they felt lonely when they were unable to log on to the World Wide Web. Participants were questioned about their attitudes towards the Internet, and were asked to go without technology for 24 hours. That meant no Facebook, Twitter, emails and text messages.

After the 24 hours were up, some volunteers compared the experience to quitting smoking or drinking, and one even described it as “having my hand chopped off.”

Paul Hudson, chief executive of Intersperience, the company that organized the research stated:

“Online and digital technology is increasingly pervasive, influencing our friendships, the way we communicate, the fabric of our family life, our work lives, our buying habits and our dealings with organizations.”

The Internet has become more and more widespread. This channel not only provides access to information and immediate communication over long distances; it is also changing society. New social venues have evolved, and virtual communities have emerged. Enthusiasts consider virtual communities liberation from traditional constraints and boundaries like time and place.

People from all over the world can find others with the same interests. Friends no longer have to be chosen from one small geographical area. Similarity in interests and attitudes are the basis of virtual relationships. Virtual worlds create new opportunities for the development of friendships but little is known about the processes taking place in virtual worlds.

There are several ways you can reduce your dependency on the web. You can write short emails containing only a few sentences, usually between one and five. Check blog comments, email, Facebook etc. only once a day. Having a pretty strict routine with all the checking you can do online reduces not only how many times a day you check the same sites. It also reduces aimless online browsing a lot in general.

If you don’t want to drop all your RSS feeds completely, consider trimming them. Perhaps limit yourself to just the 10 feeds that you read the most.

If you are available on MSN Messenger, Skype or the chat function for Facebook then people will probably want to talk to you. This can create a lot of interruptions and you spend a lot of time catching up or having random discussions. There’s nothing wrong with chatting of course, but make sure that it doesn’t steal focus and time away from the most important things. Focus on your work when you are working and focus on instant messaging when you have time for that.

You can also simply set time limits for yourself. Possibly just check Twitter a few times a day for just 5 minutes each time. This does of course expand into more time occasionally but generally it may help to stay within those limits. It may be hard to do so in the beginning but after a while your discipline becomes stronger.

Sources: Intersperience and The Journal of Online Behavior

Written by Sy Kraft