The long pause (life without Internet)

Since September 16th, I’ve been without Internet access at home.

Now, I realize that people lived for centuries without the steady stream of 1’s and 0’s from our Gore-inspired Information Superhighway; but I would insist they never really lived.

Seriously, a life without electronic mail? No Google Maps? No Google, even? No online library card catalogs? I can hardly imagine a world where my life isn’t punctuated several times a minute by the need to be online. It is ubiquitous. Access to data is everywhere. Movies, restaurant reviews, buying groceries, renewing my driver’s license…all of it is accomplished online. Hell, my master’s program is totally online, which made my recent Internet drought all the more painful.

Yesterday, finally, my Internet Service Provider, through happenstance only, plugged me back in. Like a fever breaking, I at once felt relief as the flickering green light on the router told me I was no longer alone. Life had been on pause. I would come home, now in a new studio apartment, and stare at the emptiness that used to be filled by Facebook, YouTube, Baker Business College, City of Heroes and the blog.

I go out a lot, so it wasn’t SOOOOOO bad. But still, it was almost Zen in its stillness. It was a chance to prioritize, look to the future and all that. It was terrible.

Because I, as a person, have fundamentally been changed by the technologies I use on a daily basis. I can’t imagine a world without Netflix, eBay, Google or Amazon. It is a world I wouldn’t want to live in. It would be a step backward. And when I look at social media, in all of its intricacies, I see this sort of online world expanding. It’s almost as if there are two parallel worlds—the online and offline, that we live in. We spend the majority of our time in the real world perched in front of a liquid crystal display, peering into the online world. It gets to the point where we feel more at ease—more complete when in this fake world. The portrait of the offline world begins to fade as we spend more time on the details of the online world. Isn’t this nuts? Our digital heartbeat is growing stronger.

So how did I survive? My friends would ask me, half jokingly, half knowingly, if I was going crazy. I’d read more books, I wrote more, but then it was six in the evening, and I wasn’t tired, so no early bed time. I don’t get cable, so I couldn’t phase out into passive television. Nor would I want that, anyway.

So the Robinson Crusoe romantic dream of a life lived without its normal trappings is crap for me. I needed the Web. It perhaps did not need me, but I felt the pang of its absence. Now that it’s back, I feel a bit like Tom Hanks after returning from his exile on “Cast Away,” comfortable with catching my own fish, but back in the world of instant information cuisines by the gigabyte.

And, like Hanks’ character in that movie, I sort of glossed over that chapter in my life—those agonizing few days where I was offline at home. The molehill mountain had been climbed and past. No one cared to hear what life was like alone on that island, and it in fact made them feel ashamed for fidgeting in the luxuries of our lives.

Here, the adventure started and stopped. I’ll forever remember the time, back in 2009, when my digital heartbeat stopped, and I was on the cusp of oblivion. I’m back now, though, so let’s get back to it.


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