If you’ve never connected to the internet, subsequently letting it invade your way of life, a question like this isn’t going to apply. There are still millions of people out there who have no idea how much the globe’s data network can augment their lives. But for those of us who were weaned on it, the prospect of leaving can be a scary one. The Verge’s Paul Miller – and benefactor of that pyramid thing I’ve been working on – set out on an epic journey: leave the internet entirely for a year. Obviously this seems nigh-near impossible for someone who works on a tech news site of all things, but what about you? Could you do it? Would you even want to?
There are obviously two sides to the argument, depending entirely on how you use the internet. For those who use it sparingly, the internet is just a chatter box. Oh sure, logging into Facebook, sharing photos, and e-mailing friends is cool, but hardly pertinent. If you really need to get a hold of someone, you can contact them by phone or even send them a physical letter. On paper. But social networking has allowed people, myself included, to develop relationships and keep in touch in ways that aren’t so deliberate and formal. I don’t need to call my parents (although I should) to have a relationship, I can comment on their latest pictures, Foursquare check-ins, comments on relatives’ statuses, etc. Some will argue that the internet has made people anti-social, but it’s entirely the opposite. Those who embrace a service like Facebook, Twitter, or even Skype on a regular basis, can keep tabs on others incredibly easy and will always have something new to talk about.
There’s the issue of gaming. For grandma, it may just be light social engagement or merely a waste of time, but for others, it is the outside world. What about DLC or the fact that multiplayer can augment a game’s length substantially? What about games that can only be acquired the internet?
But what scares me most about forgoing the internet are the serious obligations and incredible convenience it provides. I pay all of my bills online in a span of fifteen minutes a month instead of waiting for a physical statement to arrive, stuffing an envelope, and having plenty of stamps on-hand. The last time I needed to write a check to the government because they had no other payment options – aside from waiting around in a bland building waiting for my number to pop up – was years ago.
The idea of ditching my web home, a place I’ve held dear since I tied up the phone lines accessing it in my youth, even for a week sounds incredibly scary. Maybe there’s some soothing period after the panic attacks subside where the whole thing makes sense, but given how many advantages the internet provides and how persistent it is in our lives, how long would you last?