Internet Withdrawal Symptoms

Radio tower down, via a car: not goodHappy New Year, everyone! I’ve just arrived back in Toronto after spending the Christmas season out of town with Caralin‘s parents.

You may have noticed that this site has been quiet over the last few days. About six days ago, Wiarton was on the receiving end of some very strong winds that brought-down the 25 year-old radio tower in our backyard (onto one of their cars, see right) and, along with it, our Internet access.

Over the last few days I’ve come to realize just how much I rely on the Internet, every single day.

It’s more than just Twitter and blogging; we rely on the Internet in almost every aspect of our lives now:

  • We’re in the process of buying a car at the moment. The research process ground to a halt without Internet access.
  • I did much of my Christmas shopping online. Without web access, I couldn’t look up any information about those products or return policies.
  • I wanted to share my holiday pictures with my family in England. No Flickr, no photos.
  • When we experienced an urgent situation with a client, I couldn’t log-on to our network to check my files.
  • The family’s web design business was completely hamstrung.

There were plenty more examples of times I thought, almost by default, “oh I’ll just look that up online,” before realizing I couldn’t.

Is this kind of dependence on the Internet a bad thing? A good thing? Is it really dependence or just utility? The Internet hasn’t been around for that long, but it’s had a massive impact. If we needed to, would we quickly adapt to being offline?

What’s your take?

  • I think that this kind of reliance on the internet is a terrible thing. I’m a huge fan of cloud-computing and using Google Docs for a lot of stuff that I do, but what happens when the internet goes out like it did for you?

    I also think that situations like the one that happened to you shouldn’t cause your search for a new car to “grind to a halt” nor should it stop your relatives from getting holiday photos.
    Couldn’t you have gone to a store and taken a look at one of those auto-trader magazines?
    Even though it isn’t very environmentally friendly and a bit more expensive, don’t you think your relatives would have appreciated some of those holiday photos of you and Caralin printed out, maybe framed, and sent to them for the mantle?

    While I have to be connected to the internet for work (emails and such), I try and spend a lot of my free time not plugged in and relying on it. Rather than spending a Saturday morning looking at websites and my RSS reader for the news, I’ll pick up an actual newspaper.

  • I can totally relate. If we have an internet outage at our house, even temporarily, it is really odd to see how much it effects our daily lives.

    We are lucky to be in an area with a lot of Wifi coffee houses, and I have a local office that I work in. But not having internet at home these days can really interrupt everything!

  • Like anything, the Internet can have both a positive and a negative impact on our lives. But yes, we are becoming very dependent on it, especially for the convenience and the way it allow us to connect with each other like never before.

    I’m online all day at work, so when I get home I try not to log on. I revert to simpler, “old school” pleasures like reading a book. However, if I don’t log on for more than a few days, I do get antsy.

  • It is crazy how dependent I am on the way being a digital native. My uncle who lives in Carp, about 30 minutes outside of Ottawa doesn’t have high speed Internet access. That would drive me crazy not being able to watch shows on the Internet, download music, check my email or work from home.

  • I recently had a similar experience with having no internet for about a week. I found that I initially missed it (and got antsy that I didn’t have it), but as the week progressed, there were definitely parts that I liked about not having it. Sure, there were probably a lot of things I could have “gotten done” with the internet, but without, I was forced to reevaluate how I used my time online. I found that I probably waste a lot of time online with inefficient activities. It is not necessary to refresh my Twitter page every minute. It is not necessary to constantly check the RSS feed. I enjoy being up to the minute on information, but these things can really eat up time. Now with the internet again, I am working on being better at using the time I have to be more productive.

  • Dave,

    I don’t think that our interdependence upon the Internet is a bad thing. Here’s why. The Internet is a tool, a universal monkey wrench of sorts for your home and work. You use it to make phone calls, get mail (all my bills come that way), bank, store data on a home server (I do) and backup to FTP (I do), stay in contact with friends and work obligations. Wow, what a tool it has become and a time saver. But, it has no backup, except to drive to the local WiFi spot and that has limitations. But you could do most basic duties.

    Could we adapt if the Internet went away? Sure we would. We would have to resort to the old way of doing things with paper, US Mail and Ma Bell. It would not save as much time and we may have to drive more to get the jobs done. But we could do it.

    Now addiction, overuse and wasting time? Well, that’s another post topic 😉

  • Hey Dave,

    Glad to have you back! The internet is a tool like any other. Our dependence on it has its pros and cons. Like all tools, balance in key.

    That being said, I am always in the process of “finding” that balance. Our world is internet driven, so not having it can make you isolated. No research, no follow-up, and for us in the biz-no business!

  • I don’t think our reliance on the Internet is a bad thing. It really has made a lot of activities a whole lot easier. When faced with some unexpected “down time” as you did, I merely take that as a gift and shift gears down a notch for a bit, take it as some (albeit forced) relaxation. Our minds are so busy, it is difficult to accept at first, but it is good to unplug now and then.

    That is my “zen” sermon for the year. 😉

    Namaste,
    Connie

  • Dave, had a (sort of) similar experience here in New Hampshire not too long ago. A major ice storm knocked out power to more than half of the state’s residents. It was a little disarming to realize how much we rely not only on the Internet, but connectivity in general! On the other hand, I’ve had perfectly pleasant vacations wherein I’ve intentionally unplugged.

    I think that’s the key: when you intend to disconnect, it’s one thing, when it’s forced on you, it’s quite another. I’m pretty risk-adverse when it comes to trusting machines anyway…I still hang on to my physical, pen & paper address book, etc.

    Happy New Year!

    Jen

  • I suffered from internet withdrawal symptoms last week. I searched for the term and landed on your blog! My breathing becomes shallow and I feel weak when I get disconnected!

    But we have to accept it like electricity. There is no more debate whether we can go without electric power right?