How long could you survive without the internet?

The horror. Image: The Oatmeal
Initially I was going to ask "Could you survive without the internet?", but then after thinking about it I realised, that question didn't make any sense. It would be similar to asking "Could you survive without oxygen?". The internet has become such an integral part of our lives, our businesses, our economy and our society that if the internet were to one day suddenly "disappear", I feel like the whole world would fall into anarchy. Some people like me are more dependant on the internet than others. The first thing we do in the morning is go online. The last thing we do at night before going to bed? Go online. What do we do when we're bored? Go online. Those who are less dependant could maybe survive a few days without the internet. A friend of mine recently went 5 days without internet access. It wasn't by choice, but he survived nonetheless. But could anyone survive longer? A month? A few months? A year without the internet? A whole year with no e-mails, no social networks, no Wikipedia, no Google Maps, nothing. Could it be done? The answer is yes.

Meet Paul Miller, a writer for The Verge who went an entire year without using the internet in an attempt to determine how the internet was "corrupting" his soul. He used paper maps to get around. He used a "dumb" phone to do what phones were meant to do, make calls. He used snail mail to keep in touch with people outside his circle of friends and family. He would visit people more often now that video chats were out of the question. You should really read his article as there's no way I can summarise his experience and do it justice. A social experiment as huge as this cannot be summarised by someone who didn't experience it first hand. It may be a little lengthy but the insights to a world without internet access is well worth the time.

One year ago I left the internet. I thought it was making me unproductive. I thought it lacked meaning. I thought it was "corrupting my soul."
Most of us will not be able to go a whole year without using the internet. I know I will never be able to. It just goes to show how the internet has been assimilated by humanity and how deeply integrated into our lives it has become. It has become such an essential part of our daily life that in some countries it is now a legal right for everyone to have access to the internet. Lets take a look at just a few areas where the disappearance of the internet will likely hurt us most.

Social media
This had to be the first. No Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Keek, nothing. You can bash on social media all you want, the fact of the matter is that social media keeps us connected with friends and family in ways that wouldn't be possible without the internet. Without social media, how many friends and family members would we be keeping in touch with over long periods of time? You know what, lets throw chat services in here too. No WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, iMessage, BBM, Skype, WeChat, Yahoo! Messenger or anything else. Can you imagine keeping in touch only using phone calls and SMS?

"I wanted to figure out what the internet was "doing to me," so I could fight back. But the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are."

E-mail
Ah BlackBerry's. The phones made
almost exclusively for e-mail. Image: Engadget
E-mail might seem like a small part of the internet, but the importance of it cannot be underestimated. Can you imagine how difficult business communications would become if we had to go back to using only fax machines and snail mail? A document that needs a signature could take a week to go from sender to recipient and back to sender. Postgraduate students will no longer be able to consult their supervisors via e-mail, which effectively eliminates long-distance supervision. Sharing of physical documents with a large number of clients, colleagues and associates would be highly costly for businesses. E-mails have been so vital for businesses that BlackBerry phones were almost exclusively made for businesses just so businessmen and women could access their e-mails 24/7.

"In neatly spaced, precisely adorable lettering, one girl wrote on a physical piece of paper: "Thank you for leaving the internet." Not as an insult, but as a compliment. That letter meant the world to me.

But then I felt bad, because I never wrote back.

And then, for some reason, even going to the post office sounded like work. I began to dread the letters and almost resent them."

Dissemination of general knowledge
No Google Search. No Wikipedia. No online versions of books or scientific journal publications. How educated do you think humanity would be as a whole without the internet to help answer our daily "What's the tallest building in the world?" type questions?

Shopping and banking
Without online shopping, I wouldn't
have been able to buy my Nexus 7
Despite malls being packed as usual on weekends, online shopping has really boomed these past few years. Dedicated shopping blogs/websites and Facebook pages have helped many entrepreneurs expand their business and in some cases, give people who can't afford a physical premise the opportunity to do their business. Online banking has also contributed to the appeal of online shopping. Making payments online for our purchases, paying bills online and transferring money has made business transactions a breeze, especially when dealing with customers from other countries. Just think if all these conveniences were taken away. 

Media consumption 
It doesn't matter if you download movies and music legally or illegally, without the internet our only source of media would be the cinema, TV and CDs/DVDs. No online streaming either. 

Cloud storage
Cloud storage has become a very useful tool for storing every sort of file we need. Documents, images, music files, video files, everything. The largest benefit of cloud storage is being able to backup all our files. Without cloud storage we would consistently need to copy over our files to an external hard disk. Every week if we update our files regularly. If our laptops were to need a format or were lost, cloud storage would keep our files safe. 

These are just a few examples of how the internet has helped make our lives easier. Of course, the internet does have a dark side. But whose to blame for it? We make the content on the internet. We determine our usage of the internet. Any bad that comes from it is solely mankind's fault. The benefits of the internet far outweigh the risks, and as far as I'm concerned, I will continue to use the internet on a daily basis and not be ashamed of it.

"By late 2012, I'd learned how to make a new style of wrong choices off the internet. I abandoned my positive offline habits, and discovered new offline vices."

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