Could you live without the Internet?

I’m at a conference and my accommodations have no Internet and no tv.  In fact, there’s only one outlet.  When I’m on vacation, I expect to be disconnected, but this is a work-related trip.  I expect not only to be able to do work things, but also check in with family and friends via the Internet.  I felt a little antsy, I must admit.  Even most of my reading material is on either my computer or my Nook, and I couldn’t access either without the Internet.  Luckily, I’d brought some non-digital material to read.  But, as I drifted off to sleep, I wondered what it might be like to forgo the Internet for a while.  I’m not sure I could do it.  I could give up aspects of the Internet–Twitter, Facebook, even WoW, I could live without.  But I download movies, books, read the news, even watch tv with the help of the Internet.

But maybe I should think more about how I use the Internet.  I tend to do so reflexively as its been part of my work now for about 15 years.  Here’s an example.  I’ve hopped on the Google+ bandwagon, and when I look at it, I don’t think it’s revolutionizing my social network.  It’s still a stream of random information from *mostly* random strangers.  And most of that is information I don’t really need.  One could argue I might need the connections to people, but I’m not sure that’s even true.  I’m not trying to sell something or promote myself, though I grant that my school actually likes the publicity, so there’s that.  There are people out there I want to stay connected to–former students, former classmates, colleagues in my field.  But do I need three different places to keep up with them?

I know this line of thinking is old hat, even for me.  But I think this is connected somewhat to my lamentations about summer.  It’s all too easy to spend hours on end on the Internet, whether it’s playing a game, watching funny videos, or reading blogs.  There’s nothing wrong, of course, with leisure, with just goofing around.  But I think I”m starting to agree with some critics who suggest that the Internet weakens our ties, and is generally shallow.  It doesn’t have to be, but it lends itself to being that way.  Witness the shift from blogs to Facebook and Twitter.  Where once people used to post a link and comment on it, now they just post it to Twitter, often without adding anything to it.   That can be seen as more efficient.  After all, who needs commentary from random people.  But that’s what I found interesting, actually.  What do “real” people think about this issue?  Much of that is gone.

Perhaps the real question is, what do we do with the Internet now?  Now that Twitter (and now Google+) are the media of choice.  Now that passive forms of entertainment like tv and movies have migrated from a box that sits in the living room to any box with an Internet connection.  And now that our data (via sites like Facebook) is out there for any marketer, government agent, or a nefarious person to get to.  While some of us have been thinking about this all along, most people have rushed headlong into putting everything out there, into connecting without thinking about what that means, into just getting lost in wires.

9 Replies to “Could you live without the Internet?”

  1. When we went to India, it was too expensive to purchase internet access through the hotel. So we went 2 weeks barely using the internet. The first week was annoying, the second week we didn’t really think about it anymore.

    The main reasons I use the internet now are the exact same as 5 years ago– 1.) email; 2.) blogging; 3.) making purchases; 4.) reading news. I don’t need Facebook or YouTube or Twitter and I rarely spend time doing any of these things. But doing without email or having to go to stores to make purchases I can easily do online would be pure torture for me. And I still do love blogging/reading blogs even though it’s fallen out of fashion.

  2. Do you need the internet for Nook? Not to read, presumably?

    I can live without the internet and appreciate going unplugged occasionally. In general, though, my interenet “free” experiences have come from having poor internet access rather than none. Having poor access is just annoying ’cause you try to use it anyway and waste oodles of time.

  3. Anjali, I use the internet for mostly those same things. It’s amazing how much I’ve come to rely on it for so much communication/information consumption.

    bj, I don’t have my Nook with me, so I was going to download the app and redownload my books. Of course, to buy a new book, you have to have the internet. And, most kindles/nooks come with the 3g/4g service option–i.e. using cell spectrum for internet. I don’t have that.

  4. After about three or four days w/o the internet, I get panicky. There are some people who only contact me via email or IM and I worry about what problems might be brewing on those fronts that I won’t hear about by phone.

    Thankfully, my Kindle is a 3G model so even in the worst of times, I have a basic form of internet available!

  5. I’ve done it for 30 days. No TV, no Internet, no phone. It was pretty hard. I just did it again for a week. Still hard. It’s my main communication tool.

  6. I just finished reading Nicholas Carr’s _The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains_, and I mostly thought that he was overreaching in his argument (and really stretching out his Atlantic article, such that the book would have been better at half the length and without much of the filler and the posturing). But despite those criticisms, I did think he had a point, and I’ve been more aware of the ways in which I use the Internet to fill up time that I used to do other things with and the ways in which my attention span has slipped over the last few years.

    But I did get what I hope will be a cool assignment for my AP Comp students out of the book, so I’m jazzed about that!

  7. I’m not a mommy, but I am a father, so my wife counts. On November 11, 2011, we moved two miles from our old little house to a great big new build house. We quickly found out that there is no Internet access here. No cable. No DSL. 4G LTE, satellite or microwave are the only broadband options, and they are hundreds of dollars and have very small data caps. We have lost Netflix, hulu, YouTube, Xbox Live, everything! Today is April 6, 2012. It has been 147 days of hell. If we didn’t have old grandfathered in 3G data plans on our smart phones, we probably would have gone more insane than we already are. We dare not sneeze, or Verizon will take away our unlimited data plans. We just bought our second Case Logic 336 disc wallet, because we now own too many DVDs and video games; thank you GameStop and MovieStop! Living without broadband Internet access is terrible. My wife is searching for work in the Lowe’s or Starbucks parking lot, while our fifteen month old plays in the back of the van. We are Internet vagabonds now!

  8. Oh, let me add that we didn’t move out to the middle of nowhere, by the way. We are right smack in the middle of suburbia! Broadband on all sides of us, just not our neighborhood. 130 houses with no cable and no DSL. We have a 0.57 acre lot. If we had moved out to the middle of nowhere for a 50 acre wooded lot or something, I would have accepted the lack of infrastructure. This is stupid.

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