What does the phrase “off the grid” mean to you? Do you immediately think of living in the woods off the grid? Chances are you have heard it used in ways that don't always match the real, true meaning.
A loose use of the term is sometimes applied to fugitives or criminals who are on the run in the wilderness or back country. In that sense it simply means that they are temporarily out of sight, inaccessible, and in hiding from watchful eyes and ears. But people also call those living in the boonies as being "off grid," even though they may still have electricity and other modern conveniences. In addition, what about city folks who choose to disconnect from the grid to the best of their abilities? You can see how the definition begins to unravel.
The all-important word to focus on here is the term “grid,” which itself can have different meanings. In the case of the fugitive from justice, it means the search grid, the area that he or she will be looked for inside of. But the more interesting meaning of grid refers to the electronic and communications infrastructure that we all take for granted – electrical power, natural gas piped into the home, land line telephone, cable TV, water and sewer, and even garbage disposal.
Someone who lives in the city or the suburbs is completely dependent on these services to live, and that is the grid they are enmeshed in. To be off the grid in the sense of being a non-participant in that system and independent from it is the meaning to focus on here. For this meaning there are several variations, and it's a matter of degree that separates them.