Has Internet usage become a permanent part of our lives, or is there still a chance it could be a fad?
Isn’t there always a possibility we could reject using the Internet, or that something bigger and better might come along? Or is networking everyone and everything, to everyone and everything else, just too good of an idea to give up? Can anything bigger and better come along, other than an ESP hive mind?
Over the recent centuries, there have been many back to nature movements. None ever caught on with the public at large, but these movements have been big enough for thousands of people to retreat to living in the country hoping to find a more fulfilling life. Both the 19th and the 20th century had fairly large communal living movements, and Henry David Thoreau is still very appealing to people today.
I guess the question to ask is: Does the Internet make people happier? Billions certainly have flocked to it. And it certainly gives the illusion that the world is much smaller, and it’s possible to know far more people. I assume people are happier, because most net users spend hours each day on the web, and billions of smart phones have been sold.
I guess the next question to ask is: How would you live without the Internet? (Just, in case it went away.)
My immediate answer is I’d read books and magazines, watch TV, and listen to CDs. That’s what I did before the Internet came along. And I think that answers the title question. Everything we liked before the Internet was internet like. We cherished technology that brought us news from around the world, that let us keep up with other groups of people, to share ideas, to feel part of a bigger world. Retreating to living on a commune in the woods sounds very isolating and lonely, but I could probably do it if I at least had a nice selection of books.
I really can’t imagine people rejecting the Internet, other than maybe religious extremists. Sooner or later, fundamentalists may reject the Internet because it’s like the teaching of evolution, something that will undermine their beliefs. I can picture some fundamentalists giving up the Internet like the Amish gave up modern technology.
I guess it might be possible for some people, Internet addiction could be so bad that they will reject it completely, because it will be an all or nothing affair for them.
And finally, there might be some people, like those who have given up television, because they are so focused on their work, art, sport, hobby, etc. that the Internet will seem like wasting time.
For most people, I think our addiction to the net will only grow. I get a lot of my television from the net now, and nearly all my music, and I subscribe to a service for magazines over the net. I download audiobooks and ebooks, and read them on Internet connected mobile devices. I participate mildly in social media, mainly the old fashion kind like Yahoogroups for book clubs, and blogging. I keep my photos online, and my documents, and all my ripped CDs. When I want to learn something new I turn to the Internet. For example, when I wanted to peel a mango I studied it on YouTube. When I check out a library book, I look it up online and put it on hold. When I shop for clothes or new gadgets, I shop online. Now that I’m retired I spend a fair amount of my social time online, rather in person.
Damn, I’m addicted. Maybe I should give it up. Why should I? I don’ think there’s a real reason. But could I? Know what’s funny, the hardest thing I’d have trouble giving up is Audible.com. I’d painfully miss Rdio.com, but I could go back to CDs. And my pocketbook would miss Amazon.com, but the only way to get audiobooks cheap is via Audible.com.
If I could walk more I might do more “real” things. One reason I don’t feel my spinal stenosis as a burden is I love living on the net. I can’t walk for exercise, but I could bike. I could go see more people. I could get some dogs and cats. I could garden. I could take up guitar playing, or chess, or wood working. There’s endless amount of things to do off the net. I’m just as addicted as all those kids who live and breath social media lives.
For me, if I had to live without the Internet, I’d spend my days writing like I do now, but I’d write essays or stories to submit to magazines. I think periodicals were the Victorian age’s Internet.
I’ve got to assume the Internet is here to stay, and its where I’ll live until I die. I asked my wife just now if she could give up the Internet, and she snapped back, “Are you crazy?” She freaks out if she gets out of reach of her iPhone. She watches television with her laptop on her lap.
I do wonder if the Internet could become any more addictive? What features are left to add that will fill up the rest of our real lives? No, the Internet is not a fad, it’s become a way of life.
JWH – 2/19/14