October 1, 2010

The internet died today.

It came back, of course (otherwise, I couldn’t be writing this), but the sheer magnitude of its temporary demise was stunning. This was a failure of an enormous wireless network serving thousands of people, and an ethernet network serving thousands more. We were all in the dark- laptops, desktops, iPads, and phones all giving the same message.

No connection.

During those hours, it occured to me how dependent we are upon the internet. Now, I’ve thought about this briefly before, usually when one or the other of my connections goes haywire. But they’ve never both gone at once. And there’s never been this many people effected. That was the difference. For the first time in a long time, there simply was no internet.

I’m not counting camping trips or trips to the cottage. To me, those are times you willingly unplug. You plan around the fact that you won’t be able to access your email or Twitter (or blog!). Moreover, most of us are only separated from the internet when we’re on vacation, when we don’t necessarily want to check those things anyway.

When it’s thrown in your face like this, it is scary just how integral it’s become to our lives. I had been planning to post about something else. No go. All right, so I’ll be productive… oh wait, the syllabus with all my readings is online. See if anything’s going on? Facebook’s out. So’s Twitter. This outage only lasted a few hours, but imagine if it were a few days. How many people have their banking online? A lot of your music’s probably run from iTunes. Then there are the online calendars, address books, myriad of social networking sites, games, information, news, and on, and on, and on.

Having everything in one place like this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s awfully convenient. On the other… if the internet were to ever experience a global, or even regional outage, we would be screwed. And it wouldn’t just be an isolated group, either. By virtue of its interconnected nature, it would be pandemic.

Today, the notion of being disconnected has moved from the realm of the literal to that of the metaphorical. When you are physically disconnected, you’re socially disconnected as well. For many of us, we are blind, deaf, and dumb without it. We built it to help us, but in doing so, we’ve become helpless.

O, brave new world.


PS. Yep. Totally aware of the irony of posting this on the internet. Oh, dear…


One comment

  1. When we moved, we had difficulty reconnecting with the internet ~ something in my computer did NOT want to deal with a new ISP.

    I ended up going to the public library to access my e-mail, but didn’t want to access bank accounts there.

    When the connection finally appeared on my screen . . . such relief.

    A world without internet seems barren, indeed. 🙂

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