So… our home internet was non-existent for the past week or so. Kim Kardashian didn’t break it; I think it might’ve been a storm. Our internet provider was reluctant to put a time frame on restoration and people started venting on social media.
In a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” I was struck by just how much I rely on the net. And it’s not just me. This thing that didn’t exist until the early-to-mid 80s is now used by over a third of the world’s population. And the amount of uses, or misuses, is phenomenal.
For me the net is my go to communication source. I hate talking on the phone (perhaps a response to having worked as a telemarketer while I was studying to become a teacher) so I use email and Facebook’s messenger service as my primary means of getting a hold of people. I could still check these using my 3G services on my phone but then I’d be chewing through my data – so I was doing it sparingly, so much for instantaneous connectivity. I’m on Twitter and Facebook but my interactivity on these services has diminished lately so losing them wasn’t much of an imposition.
The hardest thing was that school had just started. I was trying to upload my programs to my Google site, set up my classes on Edmodo, create and assign assessment guidelines on the Department’s system and research elements of the topics I was teaching. No biggie. I used my time at work efficiently to ensure I got these done and made an emergency trip to a coffee shop to make use of their WiFi to finish one of these things off. Where I really struggled was with a project I’m working on with teachers from other schools. We had a shared Dropbox folder but every file I downloaded from there at work would present me with an error message and fail to open. I knew there was nothing wrong with the files themselves because I had already downloaded some of them at home before our net went out. I could still upload at work without issues but I couldn’t access any of the other files. We worked around this but it added stress to a project that fast approaching its deadline and had already suffered from the pressure of integral people pulling out. When the net finally returned last night, I stayed up past midnight to work on this in case it went out again by morning.
There were other issues too. Elements of internet banking were inaccessible through apps and mobile friendly websites. Some apps wouldn’t run at all. Video games lost aspects of the game-play options. Nothing major, really, but it was certainly annoying.
It also made me think. Smart phones and other intelligent devices are changing our world. We have apps now that can utilise the camera to scan a mathematical formula and then provide the solution. Don’t know something? Google it. Want to know the nutritional value of the food you’re eating? There’s an app for that. Hell, with 3D printers you can print your own cast for your broken leg or a gun to shoot the person who broke it – just download the necessary files.
But what happens if the Internet goes down permanently? What if a techno-virus wipes out the web? What if war or natural disasters took out the fiber-optic cables, satellites and servers?
Do we still have the skills to cope? To live?