As you know, I just came back from holidays and had over 1,000 emails to sort through. We had booked a nice place by the sea, which advertised free wi fi on all premises. As you have gathered from this blog post –and from the impressive amount of emails that piled up- the wi fi stayed on for 2 days and then vanished into thin air. So, we were left for 5 days without any internet connection.
Electra managed to read 4 books and I finished 5. We went to the beach, took long walks, watched the stars (including shooting stars), swam every single day and drank cocktails in the evening. What do you know? Turns out people can live without internet for a few days and actually enjoy it.
For the last 3 months, our household has also survived without any public TV (some sort of problem with the TV antenna which we didn’t bother to fix), and we haven’t missed that either. We are really living a kind of Robinson Crusoe life, here!
As you may also have noticed by now, things happen in consecutive waves in my life. The universe just manages to provide me with answers to my questions; even those I haven’t asked yet. So, I ran into this fantastic article on QZ.com regarding how we (people born before 1985) are the last generation of people that know both the before and after of internet. If you belong to this age group –but even if you don’t- I suggest you read the article, as the thoughts and points the author makes are great.
So, we, the before-and-after-generation, know what it’s like to live without a mobile phone and how to find something in an actual physical encyclopedia (I can hear students crying in terror). At school and even at university, most of my papers had no Internet bibliography. In fact, I spent much of my first year of my PhD studies (1995) arguing with my supervisors about including online citations to my thesis. To this day, I remember how, in the late 90s I was still trying to convince a neighbor in Edinburgh to check Google as a search engine, rather than Yahoo which she used back then. She asked how I spell Google and promised to try it out.
Then, there’s social media. Obviously, I remember how life was without Facebook. I had no idea what my friends did or ate every single hour of their life, and that was fine. I clearly missed some very funny images of dogs and some silly ones of cats. I also missed some interesting thoughts from friends.
But also, it was harder to make friends so easily across the world. That’s not cool, especially for an author. Good luck promoting Pearseus or connecting with readers and other authors by snail mail!
And new friends I’ve made. One of the people I’ve met online this year told me yesterday that she’s getting a divorce. Both Electra and I were pretty upset, then it occurred to me that this is a person on the other side of the globe, whom I’ve never met in person. And yet, she means to me much more than people living down the street!
I recall how life was without Twitter, too: no funny tweets and no instant information about people or the world. I could probably live without some things, but I do rather enjoy my interaction with people!
The universe being what it is, this morning I told Electra that I was going through my Amazon wish list. I’ve bought around 100 books in 2014. But pretty few of them were on my wishlist, which consists largely of books too expensive to buy right now.
Because most of them are hard copies and paperbacks. All of them are priced above 10$ and a few, like a $174 Peeters & Schuiten comic, cost almost as much as I’ve spent in the whole of 2014 for books.
That’s when it hit me, and I told Electra how much of a revolution Kindle has made in the book industry. Rarely do I buy ebooks over $3, and this is thanks to the internet and Amazon in particular.
Going back to the QZ article, I particularly liked the following sentence: “One of the things that concern me about a media diet that is overly online, is that we lose the ability to decide for ourselves what we think about who we are.” We have become accustomed to getting instant gratification and approval for everything we do; we get ‘likes’ for things we upload on Facebook; we read comments about our blog posts (hint, hint!); we have people tweet back to us seconds after we post. If we get few likes or no comments, we start questioning ourselves: did I write it right? Was I not politically correct? Not funny enough? Wasn’t what I uploaded interesting? What did I do wrong? We expect people to immediately and positively react to us. It appears that we do not have the self-confidence to just be who we are (with the possible exception of my dear friend Jack, who makes a point of being outspoken). We require a social endorsement of our being.
The other thing that springs to mind is my previous article on how we never get bored any more. I was thinking about the comment many made, about the difference between getting bored and relaxing. Since we now have internet pretty much everywhere –including the IRS, as I found out today, when I wasted the entire day reciting Kafka in my head- we never get bored.
The moment we start getting bored, waiting for the train, waiting through the bus ride, waiting for something to get cooked- we just extend our hand and pick a tablet or a smartphone to keep us occupied. Did you notice the repetition of ‘waiting’ in the previous sentence? We don’t want to wait anymore! We fear that we are missing out on something important out there. Others are having more fun than us; we need to catch up with them! So, instead of lazily waiting, we flick through Facebook, check our emails or tweet something funny. I think that the great revolution of the internet is that we can never get bored, nor be alone. We have constant company and permanent entertainment, no matter where we are or who we are with. In fact, only too often we’re physically with someone, say having coffee or at a restaurant, while our mind is with another group of people altogether.
I am no Luddite; I love how things have turned up technologically. I take pleasure in the buzz around me and I participate in it. I just have to admit, that sometimes, not having wi-fi is a blessing in disguise. And it doesn’t mean the end is near. Just that it’s time to get bored.
Don’t forget that for a few more days, The Power of Six will be on sale. Read seven short sci-fi stories for only 99c!