By: A. Thiollier
Going online is as easy as breathing. It doesn’t even cross your mind that when you click that tiny button, you are going into a whole new world. A world where everything is available and within reach. A world where finding knowledge, products, photos, places, people, companies, and so much more is done by a quick search of a key word. A world that we forget did not exist only 30 years ago. A world that today, it would be very hard to live without. But what if that really happened? What if, today, right now, all internet usage was lost? Could the world recover, or would it be a world apocalypse?
In January 1983, the world changed. What was impossible became, in only a day, reality. First created for military purposes, the early web helped the US government and its scientists communicate during the cold war, sharing ship plans, codes, and communications. Yes. The everyday home item started off, like many other things, as a tool of war. As it advanced in technology, it became more widely accessible; less than a decade later it was declared open to public use. Although it took some time to get it started, the fact that it was free interested many, and soon it became a worldwide phenomenon.
And here we are today. Barely two decades have passed and we are already so dependent on the internet, it would be hard to spend a day without checking up on social media, doing a quick online search for that science project, using Waze to get back home. If you think about it, how many times do you use the internet every day? I bet it’s really hard to count. The average time spent online is 6:42 hours (almost as long as some sleep). Because that’s the thing. Without any of us noticing, the internet has snuck into our daily routine, joined teeth brushing, eating, and sleeping like habits you do subconsciously. 100 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every single day. What would we do without it? Of course, it’s not only daily life that matters. The real significance of this nearly magical tool is that it is in its ability to share information.
Before the internet, it took quite a while for scientific discoveries to happen, let alone be shared with the world. With all the data available on search engines, scientists worldwide can build the scientific puzzle as a joint force, with all the pieces shared in front of them, instead of each researcher having one piece but not knowing any of the others. Government information would not be available to the public. You would have to pay for a newspaper or be right there at the speech to hear what your leader had to say. Not only facts, but opinions, the beliefs of others are shared through the net. Opinions, which are so important for us to hear. We need to know every angle there is to piece together the truth, and the internet makes that possible.
All of these are incredible changes. All of it places the internet under a beautiful light. It makes the internet seem like one of the most amazing things that ever happened to the world. But there are two sides to every story… Social media can be dangerous; it is clouded with fake news and misinformation.
But whether it is good or bad or somewhere in between, could we live without it? Could we even continue to exist if it were gone? If we lost it this very second, what would happen? Well, in only this very first second, the 1,270,406 people flying in airplanes would be lost in the sky. Any person using GPS would lose their way. Every online search would come up blank, online classes would end, every mobile phone would become a useless thin block. The 53% of the population using the internet at that moment would be suddenly cut off from whatever they were doing. All that and more chaos would break out all over the world. Every single side of life, from communication to education and business would be impacted, a blow to the very foundation on which we stand. But looking more closely. What about your life? What parts of your day would stop happening? Chatting with friends on WhatsApp? Gone. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, YouTube? No more. Social media? Nope. What would you even do with your free time?
Suddenly we would be back in a time where kids played on the street for fun, where maps were stored in cars to navigate, where the only way to talk to people from a distance was calling and sending this document would take 4 days by mail. A time where saving stamps was a hobby you could have. A time where Amazon was only a river, that web design was only a spider’s job, where surfing actually required waves. A time where Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates would only be high school dropouts. So many common parts of our life would be changed. But can we survive that? We have become so dependent on the internet that those maps don’t even exist anymore. If this situation were to happen in a few years in real life, it is possible that our dependence on this tool would be the end of humanity. But we haven’t reached that point yet. After all the initial chaos and problems and disasters, would we be better off?