Before the Internet

It was a dark and quiet night without the internet. Gathering all of our blankets, we huddled in the bath, rocking back and forth, anticipating the imminent demolition of earth. First, the phone lines cut off, then the internet. After that, we waited for the world to splinter apart. It was only a matter of time until yet another cataclysmic disaster struck.

Bulldozing through our backyard to lay down another electrical line, “the company that shall not be named but rhymes with AB&B) cut our phone line, which supplies not only the house phone but the internet. (The beloved internet, may it rest in peace.) Right now, we are still safe from the apocalypse, and I write this hunched over in the back of the library nonfiction section. After learning the news, my chief concern was, “Who’re we going to call?” Before anyone broke out into the Ghost Buster’s theme, we called “The Company.”

Six days, they said, before we can reach you to fix the problem. SIX DAYS? Without the internet? But… where will I get my LOL fix? Can I start hash-tagging everything I say in real life? Will I actually have to watch TELEVISION to catch up on all my favorite shows? And then there’s the question of what I’ll do while in the loo. I mean, will I just have to settle with Entertainment Weekly or Times (and I don’t mean the Ipad App versions).

This extremely horrifying ordeal has struck me with a question: what did people do before the internet? Maybe if you’re reading this blog and are even only slightly older than me, you know the answer to this, but I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t an internet.

One pro of being internet-free is that I get a lot more work done (you know, on that novel… THAT one, yes). Every time I minimized Word to check my e-mail or browse Facebook, I was met with “No connection found.” So I kept working and working…

Sure, the internet is a wonderful tool of boundless information and also boundless misinformation. But it distracts from what we do in our everyday lives. Maybe research papers might not take hours to write if I didn’t use PDF texts rather than paper texts as sources. My mother, suddenly cut off from her virtual farm on Farmville, began scrapbooking rabidly (something she hasn’t done in years.)

The truth I’ve found is: beyond this digital world is in fact an entirely different world, one that involves reading books not on screens, but in print. Cleaning and actually finishing homework assignments. Did you know that beyond Netflix, they also show films at these extremely large complexes called “theaters.” Instead of squinting at my tiny laptop screen, I can sit back and watch movies on these immense, colorful screens—sound blasting through the walls. You find wonderful things outside of the Internet.

I’m not saying the Internet is useless, because it’s probably the most revolutionary innovation that man has put forth in fifty years. It changes how we interact and locate information and keep tabs on our tax returns and buy new running shoes. It also changes how we use our time.

In my late teens, I’m what is called “plugged-in.” Everything I do requires the internet. Need to contact me? Facebook me, e-mail me, tweet me, check out my blog. Who needs a business card when you have a website URL? But even my generation did not exactly “grow up” on the internet. We were slowly introduced to it as it sped up, from dial-up to satellite. One day we’ll get to say to our kids, “I remember when it took ten minutes to get to another webpage.” When I was a child, we played outside. And maybe that will be a constant pastime for children. Maybe not.

How will the generation who spent elementary school playing Angry Birds instead of dodge ball shape the world? Learning how to text long before learning the multiplication tables?

The Internet is a beautiful, useful tool, but what we use it for may be devastating.


4 thoughts on “Before the Internet

  1. I refuse to acknowledge that there was ever a time before the internet existed. That’s just a story people tell around a campfire @ night to scare the kids.

  2. Back in my day we played stick-ball in the street… then the 2400baud modem came along, which allowed just enough time to get another game of stick-ball in before a connection to AOL was made. Or Prodigy. Or CompuServe. Ahhh, those were the days. Great post, Derek. Thanks! 🙂

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