We’ve all witnessed it in restaurants, family gatherings or special events. Resembling hordes of mesmerized zombies, nearly every face we see is buried in the hypnotic glow of their smart phone or tablet. Is there any escape? The new documentary titled Offline is the New Luxury, produced by VPRO, follows a new movement geared towards of achieving just that.
The film begins by asking the most basic question. What have we lost as a result of our increasingly interconnected digital technologies? Ironically – in a world where we can engage in numerous social media platforms and send messages to nearly anyone on the planet – we’ve become more disconnected from one another than ever before. We’ve lost our knack for social interplay, the intimacy of eye contact, the art of conversation and the majesty of living in the moment.
As we see in the film, a growing number of products and services seek to correct this deficiency. The White Spots App, for instance, is an inventive program that detects areas of a user’s environment which remain untouched by digital network signals. Other technologies work to block digital signals in public places. A company in the Netherlands produces products that protect us from the radiation which emanates from these devices. A German spa retreat specializes in providing an offline environment that values calming isolation and a renewed focus on the self. Even Amish communities must grapple with the challenges set forth by these rapidly advancing technologies.
There’s practically no part of the globe that isn’t pulsating with digital signals. The film takes us to Sri Lanka, where Google is incorporating a program to deliver 100% free wi-fi access via a series of balloons and satellites. But is 100% connectivity really as convenient and altruistic an enterprise as we’re being told? Critics testify that wider wi-fi coverage means more data production. This data can then be used to target citizens through advertising, and generate new profit avenues for large corporations.
Offline is the New Luxury doesn’t shortchange the positive aspects of an interconnected world, but it dares to cast a skeptical eye on its potential drawbacks with great insight.