On And Off: Digital Practices Of Connecting And Disconnecting Across The Life Course
In a time of ubiquitous and permanent access to the internet made available to more and more people, emergent research has focused on audiences’ practices to disconnect from the internet, to go offline and to remove their presence and visibility from online spaces. Connectivity being a central element of ‘social media logic’, disconnecting has been analyzed particularly in relation to social networking sites. In this paper, we aim at tracking people’s practices of connecting and disconnecting in relation to their life course. The life course approach enables the researcher to account for change and complexity. Our study thus analyses trajectories that are understood as sequences of roles and experiences incorporating social context and individual variation. We base the analysis of these trajectories on the principle of agency, where people construct their own life course through daily choices and practices within the limits and opportunities of given historical and social circumstances. It is important to understand the differences in touchpoints with technology and the difference in affordances at each life stage. This could serve as a basis for the definition of better policies towards Internet use in schools, companies and society at large, to better frame the right to connect and disconnect. In this paper, we present results from a mixed-method exploratory study, conducted in Portugal, that sought to map intentions and tactics that users of the internet develop to build offline spaces where internet access or the use of online services is suspended.