True to my word, the winner of my share contest got to pick a topic for the blog. As a creative and curious man, Patrick Burke selected the topic, “Where would you be without the internet and, more importantly, what would be different about your personal life?” I like that he made it a personal question as that is a question I can answer best. Better yet, it’s a question that we can all answer about ourselves. I am certain that tech gurus and historians could better surmise a world at large without internet. However, this is the story of us. The writer and reader, and our story of life without internet.
I am actually old enough to remember my first experience with the internet as we know it. In the early 90’s, a friend down the street had gotten internet access. Consequently, his house was the place to be. He couldn’t be on the internet all the time as I am certain it cost about $10 a minute back then. However, when he got it, myself and another friend went to his house to see what the world of internet had to offer. After the screams and pings that was dial up internet, we wondered what to look up. I, having recently seen something on TV about the lost city of Machu Pichu, recommended we look that up and sure enough something scholarly popped up. Within seconds, the other friend enthusiastically suggest, “Look up Playboy.” I don’t think we actually did, but little did I know that within the first few minutes, this interaction would serve as a caricature and global precursor to all that is the internet. Endless information and then nudity.
As I write this, I am starting to recognize why I am so technologically ignorant, reference my about page for that. Looking back, I hardly used the stuff. The first email I ever sent was in college in 1998 to an exchange student, Lucca, that I knew in high school. Hey Lucca, we are Facebook friends, how about some Italian sharing of my blog for giving you a shout out as my first email ever. Then of course the internet made researching collage papers easier and all that. But to be honest, internet in the 90’s, meh, take it or leave it.
My first job after college used email of course, but hardly necessary as I worked on a campus style environment where I guess you could send an email reminding someone to turn in their time card, but honestly you could just as easily stick your head out the window and yell, “hey, turn in your time card.” Then in Iraq in 2003 internet played no big role personally for the grunt on the ground. I got send a couple of emails, but to be honest it was too hard to access and letters were better. Letter writing is a lost art that was revived for many of us in Iraq. Mail call was a welcome time And sometimes, just sometimes, you would get a letter that smelled like it has actually be written by a female and that was always a plus.
It was probably in 2004 when I went to teach English in China that I first started embracing the internet to send emails home. However, residing in foreign country where a bottle of pijiu from a street vender was 50 cents or less made roaming streets of China much more fun that surfing the web. So as you can see, up until the mid 2000’s, the internet didn’t play a major role in my life. Sure some things would not have happened without internet and the web of circumstances would be totally different if the world didn’t have internet. However, lets play a game. Lets play the game where we assume every area of life would be intact much as it currently is with the simple absence of the internet. So I am still a married man, with 2 kids and one on the way. Working for my same job. However, life has no internet.
First things first. My early mastery of the dewy decimal system and card catalog would actually be relevant today. Talk about some wasted pop quizzes and studying. They might as well have taught us to do math without a calculator and other skills completely irrelevant today. But in a world without internet, I am still master of the public library. However, in other areas of life, without internet I am at more remarkable level of incompetence. You see the internet has taught me many things that I simply didn’t learn otherwise. Courtesy of google and youtube, I have learned how to replace a gas water heater, toilet, window regulator on a car, build a wooden bench, and most recently start a blog to name a few. I literally just googled how to start a blog and this is the result. However, without the internet, think of what knowledge fails to reach the common man who was not as lucky to have MacGyver for a Dad.
So this where I hope my life would not change too much and I think you will see what I mean. I started thinking, well if there was no internet, I guess I could spend more time reading, talking with my family, playing with my kids and so forth. Then I thought, man that sucks If I am currently choosing the internet over those things. Except reading blogs that is. Reading blogs is always a good use of your time no matter what anyone tells you. Just read the blog to your kids like it is a fairy tell. Dragon. Princess. Knight. There you go, words included. However, human beings are becoming experts at wasting time on things that don’t matter and I suppose the internet can be chief among those things if you let it. Except blogs. Once again, blogs are fine, the research says so.
So honestly, my personal life without internet, doesn’t seem too scary for me as I can still remember functional times of my life where we didn’t have it. Some downgrading in technology can be fun and nostalgic. My family recently got rid of cable and are just using digital free via an antennae. It’s thrilling! You have to plan things or might actually miss the show you want to watch, a prospect horrifying to my daughter who just assumes Netflix has always existed and My Little Pony was always a click away.
Finally, probably biggest think I use the internet/smartphone for? Maps, lots of navigation and maps. I never use the turn by turn directions, but I like to recon my route. Google map it, street view, and know the lay of the land. Google maps today is better than any piece of crap grid map they handed us in Iraq. But I suppose paper maps can be fun too. My daughter likes looking at them as if they are a relic of the past, which indeed, I guess they are. So that is my life without internet. Admittedly I would be much more ignorant and incompetent, however I hope at the core of who I am that I would function the same. Hopefully the internet has been an exercise of “in addition to” rather than “in place of”, the things that really matter. Except blogs. Blogs always matter. Grab a cup of coffee, and read though my past posts. Feel free to comment on your life without internet. Seriously, leave a comment. Subtlety is over.