Bali to Unplug Internet for One Day, Save People From Themselves

It's a tech cleanse we could all use.

Unsplash / Harry Kessell

Mobile internet services will go offline in Bali on Saturday in observance of the Balinese new year holiday Nyepi. The region will remain off the grid for 24 hours, Balinese officials announced Tuesday.

Nyepi is a traditional day of silence on the Indonesian island. It occurs annually and marks New Year’s Eve on the Balinese calendar. During Nyepi, activity in Bali slows to a halt, and religious observers on the primarily Hindu island adopt a temporarily ascetic lifestyle. This means abstaining from typical daily activities: no travel, no working, no entertainment, no lighting fires, and, for some, no talking or eating. Nyepi is a day of quiet reflection.

A modern obstacle to this mediative rite? The digital cacophony of the world wide web. But after denying requests from religious leaders to unplug the internet for Nyepi last year, the Balinese government moved to save people from disrupting their day with mindless smartphone internet browsing. While mobile service will be inaccessible, internet services that support infrastructure like hospitals and the financial sector will remain online.

“Many Hindu people are addicted to gadgets,” Hinduism Society head Gusti Ngurah Sudiana told BBC News. “I hope during Nyepi they can be introspective.”

It’s an interesting solution to the problem of tech addiction, and it showcases the depth of the pathology. Even for just one day, the best way to ensure that people stayed off devices was to shut down the internet.

And it’s not as if Bali’s people are alone in their overreliance on internet-connected gadgets. The woes of tech-addicted teens in the United States have been well-documented, with many people proposing regular technology cleanses or restrictions to keep our mental health intact. But given the nature of addiction, that requires an almost herculean effort; it’s much easier if you don’t have the option to get online in the first place.

While a day without the internet seems like it would be a nice break, don’t expect anything similar in the United States. Balinese ISPs agreed to shut down their services out of respect for Nyepi, and it’s unlikley that American ISPs would temporarily revoke access in an attempt to boost well-being.

Given the shortcomings of the human psyche, if you want to unplug for a bit, your best bet may be a quick trip to Bali.

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