Bali is switching off its internet to allow people time for ‘quiet reflection’

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Moya Crockett
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The island’s internet providers will go dark for 24 hours in honour of an ancient festival. 

Indonesia is one of the world’s most connected nations, with more than 132 million internet users.

But this weekend, all internet services on the Indonesian island of Bali will shut down for 24 hours, in honour of the ancient Hindu festival of Nyepi.

Nyepi is a ‘Day of Silence’ commemorated every Isakawarsa, or Balinese New Year. Those who take part in the festival are expected to spend 24 hours fasting, meditating and refraining from speaking, taking the time to self-reflect before the new year begins. On the day after Nyepi, family and friends gather again to ask one another for forgiveness and celebrate the arrival of the new year.

This year, the Balinese authorities have asked telecommunications companies to suspend their services for the duration of Nyepi - and apparently, they’ve all promised to do so.

“It was agreed that internet on mobile phones will be cut. All operators have agreed,” said Nyoman Sujaya from the Bali communications ministry. 

The Guardian reports that the Balinese government made the same request of internet providers last year, but were denied. This is the first time telecommunications firms have agreed to honour the spirit of the festival. 

Wi-Fi will still be available for important services such as security, hospitals and disaster agencies, and tourists will be able to access the internet in their hotels. 

The beaches will be deserted on Bali for the duration of Nyepi, or Balinese New Year 

However, visitors to Bali are still expected to respect the conventions of Nyepi, even if they do not participate in the festival themselves. Traditional Balinese beliefs say that spirits roam the island during Nyepi, and that people must stay quiet, calm and still – even refraining from turning on the lights where possible – so as to avoid attracting the attention of demons. 

Entertainment and pleasure are banned, and no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets for the day with the exception of the Pecalang (traditional local security officers). Even the international airport is closed for 24 hours.

Made Patiska, the governor of Bali, said that it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to stop using the internet for a day.

“If the internet is disconnected, people will not die,” he joked. “I will turn off my gadgets during Nyepi.”

Patiska isn’t wrong when he says that “people will not die” if they can’t go online. In fact, taking a break from the web will probably do them the power of good – since there’s plenty of evidence that excessive internet use is bad for us.

In 2010, the first large-scale Western study of its kind by the University of Leeds found that people who spend a lot of time browsing the internet are more likely to show depressive symptoms. Smartphone addiction has been shown to create a chemical imbalance in the brain, while just one hour of social media a day can mess up our sleep patterns.

If Nyepi is supposed to be a time of peaceful self-reflection, it makes sense that the best way to achieve that is not by scrolling through Instagram – and if we’re honest, the thought of unplugging for 24 hours on a tropical island sounds pretty idyllic. Anyone for a last-minute trip to Bali? 

Images: Unsplash / Getty Images