The Man Who Was Fine Offline

A poem by Paul Wilkes, Digital Inclusion Coordinator at Leeds Libraries, inspired by the many people who are not online and feel like the internet is not for them. It is written from the perspective of a 50 year old man who has no interest in getting online as he doesn’t know or understand the benefits and doesn’t feel he needs to. He is perfectly fine without digital skills, until he isn’t…

I don’t need to worry about the internet, life is good, thirty years I’ve been maintaining this machine!
This place needs me – I build, carry, drive, mend, paint, fill, stock, pick, pack and clean.
You won’t ever catch me using a phone at the wheel and causing a crash,
Anyway why would I need it? I’m paying my bills and I’ve got some spare cash.
I don’t play games and I would never use social media or whatever it’s called
Computers are for kids, you see them all just staring at screens absolutely enthralled,
It all does my head in: texting, selfies, nonsense like that just makes you a bore,
I go to the pub, play cards, watch the football…my mates have a laugh whilst nobody else talks anymore.

I’m in early today, team meeting apparently, not sure what’s going on or if I even want to know
Ahh man, my heart drops as they tell us that they’re letting some of us go.
Never mind it won’t be me, I’m indispensable, without me this company wouldn’t even be alive
But then the boss calls me in, sits me down, spouts a load of rubbish and gives me my P45!
I knew they were investing so when the gaffer wanted to see me I thought I was getting a raise
It’s disgusting to treat their longest-serving employee like this, there’s no loyalty these days!
I tell him what I think of him, he tells me to leave, “you’re screwed without me, this is gonna rock the boat”
Blank-faced he tells me I’ll need to leave the premises and escorts me to get my coat.

Ok so I’ve had some time to think and calm down, I’m upset but it’s alright I can pay my rent for a while
Something else will come up soon, until then I’ll take a few weeks off to recover and try to remember how to smile.
There’s only so much sport you can watch, I’ve done all my chores and I’m getting bored,
I’ve rang a few friends but no answer, nobody’s called round, am I being ignored?
All I ever do is get some tins in and watch TV, my money has halved so I’m being careful what I spend
I’ve got an interview in a couple of weeks though so I’m sure my time off is about to come to an end.

Got to my interview, I was ten minutes late cos I got lost and had to break out my A-Z map
I still think I’ll get the job though, I’ve got loads of experience so I’m just gonna get home and have a nap.

They rang me today, absolute jokers! Gave it to some lad half my age, this is the bitterest of pills.
I was banking on that job but they said I wasn’t suited to it just cos I don’t have any digital skills!

I’m not signing on, no way. I’ve got too much pride, I’m not a scrounger, I’ll take out a loan.
I’ll ring some more companies and go in and see them, I’m gonna sort this mess out on my own.

Dammit this is so frustrating, everyone saying email my CV, go on their website or apply online.
What has happened to the world? Am I that bad? When did I get so left behind?

God I’m so bored, I wish there was something to do, got no hobbies and I don’t like books
I know I should be looking after myself but I don’t care, haven’t shaved in weeks and don’t care about my looks.
I wish there was a way to get in touch with some old colleagues who might have some work
People keep telling me to get online but that stuff just makes me feel like a complete berk.

My confidence is shot, I’m in debt 3 grand, I haven’t worked for ages, my drinking is getting out of control
It’s a last resort but my landlord’s talking about kicking me out so I’ve had to go on the dole.
Had my first appointment today, I think I’ve hit rock bottom and just feel like a fool
Been told I need to do an IT course by my “work coach” who looked like he should still be at school

Today’s a better day, three months now I’ve been learning about getting online
It’s easier than I thought it was and now I’m used to it it’s even saving me some time
Who knew I could do so much from the comfort of my living room
I’ve got back in touch with my old mates and they’re sorting me out so I’ll be back in work soon.
I couldn’t do it alone but I was lucky I had a mentor
My local library ran classes and I had help from an online centre.
They explained what the internet was and showed me some stuff that was really smart
We started with the basics and there were loads of people like me who didn’t know where to start.

I’m doing so much these days that I never thought I could, I do so much stuff on my phone
My files, receipts, the lot, talk to my friends, watch videos and listen to music when I’m alone.
I’ve got photos of my family and a group for my pals so I always feel in touch
When I forget to take it with me I miss it so much.
Life is just easier now I can work when I want and I’m doing similar to what I did before,
I do most of it from my laptop at home, I get alerts for callouts, I’m happier and I’m getting paid more.
I’m tracking my health, I read the sports news, I look after my mum and I book my days out
Turns out there’s good reason they were all on their phones, now I get what it’s about
Some people don’t see the benefits so I tell them what is there to see!
I look back at my life before I was online and think was that really me?!

I don’t need to worry about the internet, life is good.