2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Offline - Navigating Constant Connectivity

Written by Megan Simpson | January 30, 2014

Mordechai Lightstone covers constant creativity at SXSW 2014

Going “offline” is certainly a topic that everyone at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival can understand…although they may not be able to relate. Constant connectivity has become critical for so many of us. Today’s Session Spotlight focuses on Mordechai Lightstone’s dual presentation titled, “Navigating Constant Connectivity,” which will discuss the issue of being “unplugged” in today’s society. Is it a good thing to go offline? We talked to him to find out his thoughts. For more from Lightstone, follow him on Twitter @mottel.

SXSW: What can you tell us about your dual presentation?
Lightstone: The Internet can be the voice of a revolution and a bridge that spans the global divide. At times it can be transcendent or it can be a bottomless chasm of vapid conversation. In May of 2012, Paul Miller left the Internet. Worried that it made him unproductive, that it lacked meaning, he unplugged. Does logging off allow us a return to Eden, offering a glimpse at a more meaningful life? Or when we leave, do we find that the burdens of distractions were with us all along?

SXSW: Why are you qualified to talk about this topic?
Lightstone: I go offline, by choice, every week. For 25 hours during the Jewish Sabbath, I 'unplug' from all of devices and focus on my family, my friends, and life without the Internet. As someone who spends the rest of the week doing social media and online communications for an international non-profit, it's the only chance I have during the week to really focus on what's important to me. It's an experience, even when (and perhaps specifically so) viewed without any religious framework that speaks deeply to the challenges we face in digital era.

SXSW: Who should attend?
Lightstone: People who fall asleep with their heads next to a tablet and check their smartphones first thing when they wake up. People who jump at any beep and buzz from their pockets, and suffer from FOMO when Twitter is down. In essence: everyone who's ever been online, only to realize that they've never really logged off should attend.

SXSW: You mentioned that you’re sharing your session with Paul Miller. What can you tell us about his experience while he was “unplugged?”
Warren: I will be speaking with Paul Miller. While serving as a senior staff writer at the Verge, Paul decided to unplug and go offline for a year. While I disconnect and unplug for religious reasons once a week, Paul experienced life 'offline' in a completely different - and extreme - way. I think together we run the gamut of experiences from constantly connected, to occasionally unplugged, to entirely offline. Paul will share his unique struggle for finding meaning, and his realization that some of the demons that haunt us online, may not come from the Internet itself.

SXSW: Why should SXSW participants attend? What will they gain from attending your session?
Lightstone: SXSW offers an amazing synergy of innovators, next-generation thinkers and the cutting edge of digital communications. People here know how the world will be connecting five-ten years down the road…but before we can truly understand how we will speak, we need to think about where we came from - and find the inner balance between online and off, as we grow. I think many people debate taking time 'offline,' but many find themselves unaware of the unknown, unable to take that leap away from their devices. What is more, the bold social experiment that Paul conducted would be impossible for almost anyone else due to job and life commitments. I think together, we can engage attendees in an intensely personal conversation that will touch upon questions and issues they are already thinking about, giving them new insight from our personal experiences.

SXSW: Have you been to SXSW before? What was your experience like?
Lightstone: I first came to SXSW in 2010 and have been back ever since. I love the atmosphere, the excitement and sense of innovation in the air. It's joyous digital chaos with thousands and thousands of brilliant, innovative and exciting people.

SXSW: What’s your favorite networking strategy at the event?
Lightstone: I would be remiss if I didn't mention my excitement for my own event, #openShabbat, an unplugged meal and networking event for Jews and their friends attending SXSW. I also have a softspot for the massive Mashable party ever year.

SXSW: What should we know about you that isn’t in your official bio?
Lightstone: I'm a bit of a drink snob: craft beer, single-malt scotch, good coffee…if you drink it, I probably have an opinion about it.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin, or click here for the Recommended section of the website. Register now to attend “Offline - Navigating Constant Connectivity” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.