Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear. No, not the Lone Ranger, for those of you mature enough to remember that show. But to pre-Internet days.
For four days recently, my Internet connection was down. Frustrated? Yes. Unproductive, friendless, and isolated. No.
After I’d clicked on every piece of equipment in my possession designed to link me and the world at large, then discovered no signal, I panicked. What would I do? How could I work?
I admit pretty much every time I reached for a piece of information, be it a phone number, confirmation of a fact, or the weather report, and couldn’t get it instantaneously, I grumbled mentally. Particularly when I needed to confirm meetings with several people, or actually hold a meeting via Skype, my dissatisfaction increased. But I survived. I visited several locations with free Internet to catch up on essentials.
As I sought alternative methods to figure out when a snowstorm would hit, I wondered what people think Internet access is doing to us. Some are concerned that too much Internet reduces the deep thinking that leads to true creativity. Was I more creative without the Web? I don’t think so. My connections always seem to spark more ideas and exploration. However, I believe I got more actual, productive work done during the hiatus.
Then there’s the theory people who are socially anxious are more likely to use electronic communication so they can avoid interaction. I don’t know if I qualify as socially anxious, but I definitely use email to avoid extended conversations and control the content. During the interruption, I had to use the phone which I hate to do. So only a few people heard from me, which probably was appreciated by all.
During times of crisis, such as the terrorist attack in Paris, I know I’d miss access the most. With television and radio, I can’t search for exactly what I want, and I feel inundated by uncontrollable floods of terrifying pictures and reports.
On the whole, my involuntary exclusion went well. I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms; it was kind of nice not to feel pressure to interact constantly. I missed little but the ability to look up word definitions immediately as I’m reading a novel, but little else. Still I felt out of sync with the rest of the world, disconnected. I was on the dark side of the digital divide, one, we’re assured, creates an unbridgeable gap and marks the adult needy as surely as a poor child is labeled by being eligible for free school lunches.
To avoid landing in the situation in the future, I know what’s inevitable, I’m forced to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next stage of my techie progress—perpetual connection via a smart phone.