In our world of instant communications, information overload, connected devices and online communities have we become slaves to the relentless appetite of the internet? Are we addicted to data? Nick Spalding has a formula for taking many of these real-world (and often sensitive) issues and building an entertaining and thought-provoking story around it. In Logging Off Nick Spalding poses this particular scenario when his main protagonist, Andy Bellows, suddenly finds himself in the middle of a client presentation and his body goes into a breakdown with his jaws locking, his speech slurring and his vision disturbed.
When his doctor checks him he suggests that the episode may be a result of obsessive online activity and his body is not resting enough at night. The doctor suggests that for two months he logs off all online social platforms and doesn’t use any computer technology except that for work and only emails as a means of communication. Andy meets his best friend Fergus to tell him about his new plan and seek some moral support. What he gets from his friend, the editor and journalist of the local newspaper, is:
“Fergus also smiles. ‘And this ginger twat is going to help you do it.’ ‘Really? How?’ ‘I’m going to write a story about you for the paper.’ ‘No you’re bloody not.’ ‘Yes, I bloody am.’ ‘No, Fergus. You really bloody are not.”
Fergus wins Andy round as it also ensures Andy has an added incentive to stick to the challenge. As the news circulates, an array of colourful characters are drawn into the story. Andy forms an oldfashioned group of similarly concerned internet addicts who meet weekly at a local cafe. Each has their own background and life story to tell, and there is always someone you can relate to. One of the people Andy meets is Grace, the owner of the cafe, who has her own issues and as they both deal with everything they are facing, they develop an endearing friendship – hmmm, maybe something stronger.
While this is a repeatable formula from Nick Spalding and initially I felt that I could almost describe how the story would unwind, it is worth pointing out that Nick has developed a winning formula. The humour throughout the narrative is extremely entertaining and engaging. His main character is often hapless which helps expose many issues in more dramatic form. Nothing is ever plain sailing as that wouldn’t help with the insights that often come through – yes life is difficult, there are ups and downs, but learn to address the challenges and enjoy the good moments whenever possible.
As a daily user of Goodreads, Twitter and other social media platforms, the message coming out from this book is to Log Off, and that fills me with unease. I’m still a software engineer at heart and the owner of a medical software company and this is all part of my life. But am I addicted? Try leaving it alone and see if you have withdrawal symptoms. The sense of this book and in life is balance. When we tend to become obsessed or addicted to any facet of our lives we lose connection with other important aspects. The ultimate message is not about Logging Off Completely but Logging Off Sometimes.
I will continue to read Nick Spalding for the sheer entertainment factor but credit for also making us look at ourselves with the cleverly crafted life message. I would recommend this book and I would like to thank Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.