August 24th, 2007
Life without internet gives you so much more time for everything else. Do we really need so many human connections at such close proximity and frequency? There’s nothing wrong with online social networking – and yeah, I guess that’s a bit loaded, because I personally don’t think of my emails as that at all – but it seems to me that it’s gotten to the point of being excessive. Forgive my generalisation, but people today, starting with our generation, are losing touch with things of substance. I can only talk about myself, though, so here: I have a world now that internet is not readily available. Without it, I can see how the thought of going online and the thought of online matters monopolised so much of my life. I can accomplish so much more in a day. I can go back to my room at night without the temptation to turn on the computer. I can be at the dinner table on time because I wasn’t halfway through an email. I don’t have to feel disgusted or envious over anyone’s online photos. I can sleep without feeling guilty that I could have but didn’t reply emails. I don’t have to feel unpopular because my blog didn’t receive any comments for the past n weeks or because no one wrote on my Facebook wall. I don’t have to be disappointed that my favourite fics haven’t been updated for a month, that there are no new comic strips on PhD, that there are no new highlights in NBA.com’s video vault, that there are no new Potterpuffs.
I know that without internet I wouldn’t have any of these things to begin with… it’s like saying that without electricity we wouldn’t have to worry about power outages. I’d be naive to think I could live long-term without net, and I won’t go so far as to say life without net is a better one, but as someone who’s had sporadic access online for the past two weeks, I can’t say it’s been a particularly unpleasant experience. With it I would not keep my grandma company while she watches reruns of painfully bad HK soap operas; I would not have offered to stand outside hosing the lawn for half an hour yesterday; I probably would not have been so willing to shoot hoops with her 80-year-old friend today; I would not take so many after-dinner walks and might have missed the beautiful sunsets I was lucky enough to see the past two evenings. One of the most important things this week, though, is probably that not being able to go online forces me to read. Books, not fic – although some fic is written ten times better than some of these books, in the end it’s still Potterverse, which does limit the imagination (but for the record I am a fanficfan; my only complaints are that I have to stare at a computer screen and that they draw, no matter how lightly, from a world created by someone else).
Maybe these few weeks a year of being offline is a chance for me to connect with other things. Haven’t you ever gone out and forgot to bring your sunglasses, or found your music player out of battery? The out-of-battery thing happens to me more than rarely, and if I can skip past the frustration stage I should actually be grateful to be given a chance to step out of my little life and look around… I hope you know what I’m talking about because I would be snobbishly patronising to continue explaining much longer. Internet has many, many benefits, but what I don’t like is how easily it’s trapped me. Like tying up my mind and yanking on the chains in its direction. There are other things in the world that I need to pay attention to…
For the Calvin and Hobbes fans, I support Calvin’s dad: longing for a time when nothing was instantaneous, when there was no internet and you would have to call people on the phone to talk to them, or even further back when post was the only way to communicate, and you would not be pressured into having to respond immediately, when there was a technological limit to how fast you could work, unlike now when all our ridiculous gadgets stress the bleep out of us because we can’t keep up with them. A time of bicycles and walking, so there was only so fast we could get from A to B. I don’t want to idealise anything, I just want to imagine a world that moved a little slower and took time to breathe and enjoy life. Maybe twenty years ago, few families had computers at home and kids would play outside every day. I dunno. I just hate the idea that I’ve been enslaved by the internet in particular. I wish I could write a note without wondering if I should post it on my blog. I love email and I know without it most of my friends would be lost already, but if my grandma can still keep in touch with her primary school friends without internet, why can’t we! How pathetic our generation is turning out to be. Technology is great, yes, but there are costs that we shouldn’t ignore. Maybe if we realise what they are we can actively try to recover what was lost and then the net benefit of tech would be greater.