This piece was written on Wednesday 22nd August
The last 48 hours have been hellish. Hours of restarting my laptop. Renewing IP addresses. Resetting routers. Reconfiguring networks. Plugging in LAN cables. Deleting wireless network profiles. Attempting to re-connect.
But failing. Seeing that pathetic revolving progress wheel in front of a network signal symbol struggle in its gargantuan effort to rip through the blank nothingness of isolation into the full colour of the web.
People involved in offlining projects (where one spends designated periods of time without internet access) sometimes find themselves motivated by memories of their uncontainable frustration on those occasions when their internet connection would break.
There may come the realisation that they had been transformed from a normal, healthy human being into a kind of digital junkie reeling from instantaneous withdrawal symptoms. They remember how their stress levels would rocket, they would sweat, swear, thump the desk, bash the keyboard, tear bits of hair off their heads and shout about this happening at the worst possible time and how they were approaching their wit's end.
So the post-junkie may or may not eventually stop in his or her tracks and whisper in horror, "What have I become?" Coupled with a dawning realisation that the world is a beautiful, natural space that is "best" enjoyed un-augmented, the post-junkie unhooks a myriad of technological peripherals, banishes himself from the world wide web and breaks free into the wide open space that has been waiting for his return.
Of course, this is all bullshit. Others have explained why offlining is essentially a misguided attempt to "re-balance" a sense of digital-world / physical-world priorities which are doomed only to become more skewed.
There are good reasons for why losing your connection to the internet is a stressful experience. People who wag fingers and say we are foolish to rely so much on fallible technology miss the point entirely. Tokenistic offlining aside, there is no option to "roll back" the impact the Internet has made on human existence.
Paradoxically, although the world is populated by societies who are all at different degrees of digital literacy, the ubiquity of what the web truly is has changed the very fabric of reality itself. Losing your internet connection is not equivalent to having a useful but nevertheless optional extra revoked; it is equivalent to losing one of your senses or having all the colour drain out of the world or maybe even watching a whole dimension implode.
"Disconnected" is a word which we use today both as a metaphor and as a euphemism.
Without the Internet, a kind of fourth dimension of our age, it's fair to say that we feel flattened - squashed into a painfully barren state of immobility. The term "cut off" communicates the severity of this scenario well. "Disconnected" is a word which we use today both as a metaphor and as a euphemism.
It's as possible to be melodramatic about loss of connectivity as anything else. But I don't think that the state of things as I outline them here can be described as melodramatic (exaggerated, sensationalised, overemotional) since there is plenty of evidence to support the assertion that these withdrawal symptoms are common in a vast majority of internet users.
It's not an "extreme" reaction to get stressed out when you can't get online; that's just the reaction human beings characteristically have when they can't get online. That emotion is part of a web-enabled society and we have to accept that.
You'll be pleased to hear that I have at last restored my access to the web. Things feel right again. The fracture in my mental state over the last two days has evaporated. All has been repaired; refreshed; replenished.
Again, it's no exaggeration to want to emphasise the fact that in the phrase "I'm (re- or dis-)connected" there is no signified peripheral between myself and that desired connection. In the grammar of that sentence, no inanimate object exists to preface the longed-for content. Our language reveals our yearning. It's just "me" and "the web".
If we only listened words and phrases like these more closely, we would understand a great deal more about ourselves - and what matters most to us.
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