A conversation – in person – the other day prompted me to wonder about this: Suppose I just stopped right now and never again did another thing on the Internet?
And that would include giving up even basic email.
We all know how uptight we can feel if the net is unavailable for even a short time. (“What? No wifi? Arrgh!”) So what a strange feeling it would be if you knew you’d never use it again? You’d never post another thing?
Imagine returning to “the old days”? It wouldn’t be easy. Owing to “social media,” we probably “know” many more people out there than most others who’ve lived before us. You would all be disappeared in an instant….
Having thought about it, I realized I’d feel lost. Okay, it wouldn’t be quite as bad being marooned in….1794. But still….
Even reading news sites would seem strange. You’d be using the net, but in no way participating in it. Imagine finding yourself entirely on the outside, looking in?
Indeed without an email address, you can’t really read Facebook, Instagram and other sites. Signing up allows you “full” access.
Beyond mere “information” issues, the likes of traveling would become awkward to extremely difficult. You couldn’t access an app for an airline e-ticket or visa. You couldn’t do anything that required online forms.
Even day to day life would backslide, with aspects of it again becoming more time-consuming. Case in point, I had to help my father-in-law tax his new car at the DVLA website. He doesn’t use the net at all, and barely knows what it is; but he’s also 85 and remembers 1940 and the Luftwaffe and RAF dogfighting over London, and bombs falling destroying neighbours’ homes seemingly at random, and nearly his own, so he’s entitled.
I could do it in about two minutes for him online clicking through screens….or he has to find a Post Office and pay it in person.
But I’m not 85: I’d have no excuse.
Leaving the net would be an earthshaking change in our lives. We do so many things that require it, we often don’t even realize it. We are now so immersed and accustomed to living this way, living as we routinely did even 25 years ago would utterly throw many of us, and would be especially alien to someone….of age 25. (Which is some of you reading this.)
Without the net, I’d probably read more print books. However, I couldn’t buy them from Amazon without an email address. I’d have to find bookstores or perhaps seek out libraries again.
By the way, texting on my mobile would not be allowed either, so I would have to phone people again. (Probably with a landline, because having a mobile now without an email is pretty difficult, too.) That would probably annoy those people after a while: “Didn’t you see my photos on Facebook? What do you mean you’ve given up the net? Sounds interesting that experiment, but I don’t have time to talk to you. I gotta run, message me….oh, wait, you can’t….”
It’s so much easier to write about “the past” than to have to (re)live it. I might even start writing letters again, too. But recipients by then would have probably already started thinking, “Gee, Robert has become sorta odd, hasn’t he? Is he okay?” 🙂