I was thinking about how much I live a web-life–the articles I read online from newspapers I subscribe to online, the contact I keep with people online, the deals I make online, the shopping I do, the uploading, the downloading. We already have virtual lives. We don’t need Second Life to show us how to be an avatar; we are already avatars in our own online worlds.
But what if by next week you knew there would be no more Internet? No more Facebook. No more Amazon. No more NY Times on the web. No more getting your news there. No more Youtube. No more buying on iTunes. No more Skype. No more sharing lives this way. No more information. No more wikipedia to answer questions, or health sites to give you info. You were restricted to the former ways of staying in contact with others, the former ways of looking up info, the former ways of living. Welcome to LudLife. You would still have a computer–it just wouldn’t be connected to a network. You would still have a phone, but not a smart one. There would be no texting. You would have to talk.
If you knew this internet shutdown would happen on March 31st, what would you do between now and then?
1. Would you go onto Facebook and ask everyone for their snail mail address—which of your 641 friends would you do this with? You can’t possibly stay connected to them all, yes? Which ones are the most important? How many could you handle? 5, 10, 20 people?
2. What articles would you download and print? Of all the articles you’ve ever read, would you go back to any of them to preserve them? What magazines online would you suddenly read so much of before the shutdown?
3. What information do you need before March 31st? How to renew your passport? What Hawaii is like? What would you read to know?
4. What pictures would you download from your facebook site to make sure you still had them? What ones are important to you? Which of your friends’ photos? And would you print them off, or just keep them on your computer?
5. What magazines would you subscribe to in print?
6. What of your own blogs would you save? Would you be shocked that no one wanted to print off anything on your blog–that it was ephemeral at best anyway?
7. What movies to download? What songs to grab? What books to e-book quickly to save on your Kobo or your Kindle?
8. What would you say to other people before the lights of the internet went out? What kinds of conversations are important to have before you lose touch?
9. Would you think it was a practical joke, coming as it does on April Fool’s Day, and so, do nothing at all, expecting that your life will be the same on the 1st as it was before?
10. Would you write a congressman? Sign a petition? Do anything for an online charity?
11. Would you make sure you could still get money from your accounts? Would you balance your books, do your taxes?
12. Would you cheer? Would you be so happy that this whole online life was finally over and that you could return to daily living? Living in the moment with other people–with phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and written schedule books? Would you LOVE the freedom of being unattached to a network of souls? Would you throw a party, roasting your iPhones on an open fire? Would you relish the quiet that we’d pushed so far away that you had to be in the deepest bush of the Yukon to get away from it? The quiet would come back to your own apartment.
13. Would you cry? Would you be so depressed that you were no longer a part of a giant network, a “we of me” community? Would you feel as if you had to make 500 Sophie’s Choices to decide who to stay friends with? Would you feel lonely? Would the quiet that seeped into your apartment steal your happiness? Would we go back to being a world of people who can handle social interaction, and those who are never spoken to? Will that equality that the internet brought be dashed?
14. Would you fear for other countries that you might not hear about anymore? Would you feel that Myanmar and Japan and Darfur had fallen off the map because there wasn’t a constant stream of information coming? Because if the internet shut down, wouldn’t cable tv? I don’t know. They may be on the same lines. But even so, even just the internet–doesn’t the internet provide us a freedom of information about countries our news doesn’t always talk about? Isn’t that a part of the democracy of the internet–that they have a voice that you can hear in your own home too? That you can find out about things your conglomerate network TV news doesn’t want you to know about? Will countries just fighting for freedom not have this tool?
15. Do you think we could adapt again? Having bitten the digital Apple–can we go back to a time before? Or would we strive to rebuild the internet again? Or do you think that anyone would bother? It might take twenty years–and by that time, no one might remember what all the hooplah was about.
You have one week left. What will you do?