You wake up every morning and start your routine which, for most of us, includes catching up on the news. Whether this is about your friends, celebrities, sports, or current events, it usually begins on your smartphone or your tablet. Even on your commute, you’ve got a podcast or internet radio station going. Once at work, you’re sending emails, video conferencing, researching, and sending a few texts to friends. And, unless you have excessive website blocks at your office, you’re probably also checking your social media profiles. Finally, you head home and zone out to some Netflix and have one last browse through social media before you’re off to sleep.
However, what would happen if the internet vanished? We’re not talking as if the internet was never created (thanks, Al Gore!). Imagine what life would be like without the internet. Like an episode right out of Black Mirror, this unwelcomed reality would certainly turn our world upside down. But, what would really happen if we weren’t so connected?
Some purists might argue that having no internet would be the best thing to happen. They’re the same people who think it’s horrible and that all Millennials do is Instagram their entire day. They’re not entirely wrong; studies show that such incessant social media use can negatively impact our lives.
Of course, it’s really easy to discuss how life would be miserable without the internet. It would be a lot harder to talk to your friends on a daily (or hourly) basis. But, it would take away a sense of community that, for many of us, is vital. This could be anything from fantasy sports leagues or even virtual mental health groups. As a result, we may be more disconnected than ever before. But, there are more cons than you can probably imagine. You’d have to go to a shop and buy a digital file in person to access new music beyond the radio. Possibly one of the biggest downsides would be the lack of dog photos in our lives. Rest assured, even without the internet, people still don’t want to see a picture of your food.
On the other hand, being cut off from the internet might do wonders for our personal relationships. Because we wouldn’t have a screen to distract us, we’d start to live in the moment. Imagine heading out to a dinner with your mates and actually having a (gasp!) conversation. And, the conversation, although it still may be about gossip, would focus on the real world. There are plenty of benefits to a life without the internet but one, in particular, is worth noting: you’d get to truly interact with people. The benefits aren’t just about the time we spend awake. Our addiction to connected devices is ruining our sleep.
News: The way we take in news and information has been impressively quick thanks to the internet. Without it, we’d rely on TV programs, newspapers (yes, actual newspapers), and, worst of all, word of mouth. If you think politics in the US have been wacky lately, imagine it with even fewer sources of information and no way to verify their credibility. We imagine politics would take a surprising turn, although we’re not really sure which direction that would be.
Health: The long-running joke is to never use WebMD for your symptoms, otherwise you’ll end up thinking you have five types of cancer and the plague. However, having access to an online directory of symptoms has certainly helped millions. With such platforms, we can self-diagnose with a degree of accuracy. This saves us time and money on health-related costs. Without it, there would be a lot more and possibly unnecessary trips to the doctor. Even still, medical professionals now rely on a connected network to pass along patient data and research conditions. Having no internet would slow this process down for sure.
Work: Working without the internet seems like an impossible task. Whether you have an international team or simply advertise locally, the internet has a profound effect on our productivity. Without it, we’d rely a lot more on spoken word of mouth, advertising in print and on TV, and take days to complete even the smallest tasks. Additionally, global commerce would be impressively slow and tedious, if not impossible for some brands. On the whole, scaling as we do in the current market would be all but unattainable.
Commerce: Likewise, our shopping experiences would become drastically limited. In regards to fashion, trends would slow as it would take longer to spread new styles. From there, it would be very difficult for global sales and innovation would suffer. Imagine technology without crowdfunding campaigns (that’s not a world we want to live in).
Finances: When USAA first advertised their app-based check deposits in 2009, everyone was ready for it. Likewise, even having an app to show all of our finances in one place is certainly something we take for granted. In life-without-internet-land, you’d be back to a standard check book and calling your bank to find out your balance. It also means paying bills would take much longer, as banks would also be less connected.
Social life: Hanging out with friends would go back to the methods of yesteryear. You’d need to send letters to far-away friends or probably get back to paying high rates for long distance calls. Want to make plans? You’d better hope your friends remember the event date. However, we would rely on in-person interactions which would encourage us to get out and see each other more often.
General information: Gone would be the days of Google Maps (or even MapQuest, for that matter). Researching for a school paper or a project at work would require a library card and some serious effort. Unless we archive the entire internet and hit print before it goes AWOL, we’d also lose a lot of access to information, never to be seen again. Ultimately, our society would suffer from this lack of knowledge.
Law and order: The internet has been an imperative tool to help law enforcement identify and arrest suspects. It’s also a powerful method to finding evidence. Having no internet would certainly take cybercrime off the table, but it would leave a gaping hole for all new crime. Knowing the limits of CCTV where there’s no cloud or digital locks or alarm systems, criminals would be more likely to commit more crimes. At least initially, our society would experience a large spike in crime before new methods could take the place of current systems.
Have we lost all hope? We don’t think so. The internet contains everything we could possibly know. There isn’t another version of the internet. While we may depend on the internet in a seemingly unhealthy way, it hasn’t wiped out our civilization or our culture. Actually, the internet has very much become our civilization and our culture. In fact, in 2016, the term “memes” was searched more than “Jesus.”
For the eye-rollers, the internet has done wonderful things for society. From connecting people across the globe to helping students learn even more, it has countless positive sides. Just look at Gadget Flow. We’re a team of 25 people working in eight different countries. We span 16 different time zones. And we work in unison. It doesn’t take a well-choreographed routine to do so (although sometimes we think otherwise); all it takes is the internet.
We use the internet for just about every part of our lives. What would happen if it vanished? For some younger folks, life before the internet didn’t exist. Even for the older readers, it’s hard to imagine what we did to pass the time before the World Wide Web.
Check out my related post: How the influence of influencers could be measured?