For the past few weeks I have not had an internet connection in my place of residence. It was an interesting experience and I thought trying to do a little reflection might yield some useful self discovery.
The first thing I discovered was that I really don’t like living without Internet. I have grown used to the convenience of hopping online when I want to look something up, or to plan my day the next day, or map an impromptu run. My life took on a much more planned quality without the constant connection to near boundless information and entertainment.
As it happens, I do not absolutely need Internet for entertainment. I was no more or less bored than I am with an Internet connection. I have plenty of hobbies that do not require a connection at all, like knitting and sewing. I had some movies with me, so the lack of Netflix did not even impact my preferred habit of watching something while I knit. It perhaps allowed me to pick and choose what I was watching more thoughtfully (mostly because I was picking from only movies I’ve already seen, so the thought process was “what have I seen LEAST recently?”). Also, as I’ve recently moved and started graduate school, there wasn’t a lot of time for idle surfing anyway.
However part of my dislike for not having internet at home does have to do with grad school. It is expected that I have reliable access to Internet. It says so in many of my syllabi. I’m sure it will surprise no one that I have a lot of work to do. Most of my classes, though I am taking them in person, use an online classroom to organize our course materials, assign readings, and post video lectures that we are expected to stream before class. This amounts to quite a bit of time online. Of course there were easy fixes, and I used them. I planned substantial chunks of time on campus to use their internet connection. I downloaded articles where I could and saved “printed” webpages as PDFs to read. I went to Starbucks and used their WiFi when I didn’t feel like going to campus. And of course, I could also use my phone.
You caught me! I DID kind of have Internet at home through my smart phone’s data plan. Thank goodness I did too because it was quite the saving grace when I forgot about something I needed to check or was waiting for an email to come in from a professor. As much as you can do with phones, you can only do so much.
So all my workarounds did, in fact, work. I came out the other side whole and happy to have the Internet back in my life. If I were a different person, I might wax nostalgic about how there used to be a better time where we didn’t NEED Internet to be happy, and I should really think about cutting down my web time and join the real world. But I’m not that person. I don’t need Internet to be happy, I need it to do my job, which is to be a student of Library and Information Science. The main tool of that trade is this wonderful network of weirdness that is currently connecting all of use through the ether (and also through enormous data centers in various places around the world). Also, I argue, that the web is now an extension of the real world, and we would all do well to learn how to function competently within that sphere.
I will acknowledge, however, that there are plenty of places in this world in which people would consider having internet right in their homes to be the height of luxury and excess. Those people live fulfilling lives too. I want to be clear: if I were in any of those places I would be living with a very different set of expectations regarding Internet access. In my current context, it is expected that I have almost constant access to Internet, and assignments/requests are doled out within the context of those assumptions.
Appropriately, I have just starting a chapter that explains to me exactly how the Internet works. It is fascinating, but I never want to be the one people rely on to make it work.
So the moral of the story is: I like having Internet in my apartment, and now I do. Instead of getting some of my assignments done, I blogged about it. Oh dear.