Remember what life was like before the age of the internet? Me neither. It was emerging as a must-have about the same time I was reaching the age of reason. All my friends grew up with the World Wide Web, too, and it has been such an integral part of daily life in the U.S. for so many years now that even older generations are becoming just as dependent on the net (do people still call it that?) as their offspring.
Turns out, though, that a sizable group of Americans have rejected the internet and all its empty promises. The Pew Research Center reveals that “some 15 percent of Americans don’t use the Internet, and most are quite content to remain offline.”
Still, around 75-85 percent of Americans make use of the internet. Some even suffer from “internet addiction” and experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those of drug users. Yikes!
What was it like before a single click could bring the world to our eyes? What would it be like if the internet disappeared tomorrow? Some possibilities:
People would think more.
There is certainly no guarantee of this, but losing Google would logically help matters. Whenever people have a question about something, they don’t take time to reason it through in their mind until a rough little thought forms into a smooth pearl; instead, they get out their iPhones, iPads, tablets, or laptops and type, type, click! you have your answer. Old-fashioned argument is less common and definitely less fun when an answer to the debate is literally at one’s fingertips. And what about our memories? We aren’t forced to commit things to memory much these days, because anything we need to know can be revealed to us lickity-split, anytime, anywhere.
People would really read real things.
Human Events articles (wherein the “art” is put in “article”) aside, internet stories tend to be nasty, brutish, and short, with lots of pictures thrown in to guarantee a quick impression. I know I am guilty of skimming nearly every piece of e-writing I encounter, looking for the punch-line or the photo caption that tells me what I need to know. Sometimes I just read the headlines. (Guilty blush of shame. Also Matt Drudge’s fault.) There’s just so much out there, who has time to digest it all? Without the internet and that neat little scrolling device on the top of the mouse which allows us to gorge on hoards of free content, we may actually be more discerning in choosing what we read. Actually buying a newspaper or magazine with money is a big commitment, and the material inside would therefore likely be more thoughtfully composed, more worthwhile, of a higher quality, and more relevant to its audience.
People would be more literate and express themselves coherently.
E-mail, Twitter, and Facebook let people communicate PDQ. The side-effect is that people seem to want their writings to keep up with the speeds in which the messages are delivered. Thus errors and the rise of abbreviations and acronyms are increased. If it is true that YOLO!, perhaps the reasoning is that instead of wasting time with loquacious banter, it is best to make exchanges as brief and direct as possible in order to move onto the next life-enriching thrill ASAP. If communication is basically instant, though, wouldn’t it make sense that we can spend the extra time composing articulate works of word art? Such is not the case. We are dumbing ourselves down to a handful of words and expressions that are useful in communicating the majority of emotions and situations, and detail in a world of lightning-fast internet speed is tossed to the wayside in favor of haste.
People would take vacations. Real ones.
Who goes on vacation and actually does zero work for two weeks? According to a survey released this year and reported on by MSNMoney, “a lot more of us, whether we want to or not, are hitting the smartphones and laptops even when we’re supposed to be hitting the beach, hiking trail, or lawn chair.” Does having an internet-connected smart phone constantly within reach make us feel that work is also constantly within reach? Yes. Does it bring with it a sense of guilt that we should always be available, and that we could be doing work or responding to e-mails? Work used to stay at the office, but nowadays, the office is portable. It is hard to “get away from it all” when “it all” fits in our pockets.
People would be terribly upset and ignorant.
If the internet vanished over night, thousands of Human Events readers would feel lost, depressed, dispirited, and an unyielding sense of doom would cover the world. Good thing it doesn’t look like the internet it going anywhere anytime soon.
Teresa Mull is the managing editor of Human Events.