When the Internet went black on me, I was supposed to see the light. It would be a divine revelation.
“Hey, you know what? I can get along without this just fine! I am more mindful and spending my time in healthier ways! I think I’ll stay offline more often now!”
Instead, it was like trying to walk on a broken foot. There are a lot of places I just can’t go now because, you know, I’m on crutches.
Far from being a refreshing break from online life, I’ve found just how dependent I am on being plugged in. I’ve discovered my life is normally ruled by x’s and o’s. I’m stuck in Nowheresville while everyone else is making time and money.
It isn’t good. It feels like I am – what’s the word? – deficient. And just a few days ago I was a cool dude.
There I was, humming along the information superhighway on cruise control, and I pull off to get some gas. But wait, there’s no ramp back onto the freeway. Now I’m going 55 on some country road in the middle of Ontario, no idea where I’m going. And not a Cracker Barrel in sight.
Spiritually speaking, I’m dealing with the reality that I depend much more on technology, day-to-day, than I do on God. Much as I dislike the high-tech lifestyle, I have become a creature of it. My daily habits, my livelihood and even my thinking depend upon access to gmail and Google. They are the lords of my personal universe.
This makes me want to rail against the whole bit, the way Ray Davies did long ago in that klassik Kinks song, “20th Century Man”:
This is the age of machinery, a mechanical nightmare;/ the wonderful world of technology, napalm, hydrogen bombs biological warfare/ … I’m a 20th century man but I don’t wanna be here.
Ray was ever given to hyperbole so I will back it up a bit from his voice-in-the-wilderness despair. But I must say this digital dependence is troubling to me. If some cyber-terrorist succeeds in taking down the grid, will I even be able to light a fire?
It’s not like I wasn’t warned. A few weeks ago files started disappearing from my Word docs. Stories and videos that were there just minutes before suddenly vanished, as if a green bug with glowing red eyes were eating them. It was downright spooky.
Turns out the bug I did have – one of more than 500, actually – had scrambled my computer’s “indexing” system. This made it impossible for my poor Dell laptop to “find them.” The virus in question, my tech told me, had “opened the door” to let other bugs in. I found this “completely creepy,” picturing my computer as a Middle Earth king whose castle walls had been breached.
Once that siege was turned back thanks to a carpet bombing with super-strength anti-spyware, I decided to simplify my life by getting rid of my landline. This would be another way of turning back home invaders, otherwise known as telemarketers, whose calls were pretty much all I was getting on the old Aunt Bea phone.
Big mistake. It seems that to disconnect one’s AT&T landline one must also disconnect one’s Internet service. They can’t just turn off your phone switch. You need to stop the whole thing and start up a new account for just the Internet, at a slightly higher rate. This is your punishment for trying to simplify.
But no problem, said Carrie, the first AT&T Person Out There I talked to. When your phone goes off you’ll automatically be taken to a page where you can re-register your account. When I asked if my Internet service would be interrupted, she said I was making this more difficult than it needed to be. Thanks Carrie; I will place my trust in how smart you are.
But come Tuesday, landline turn-off day, Carrie turned out to be not smart at all. I lost all Internet access and had no magic page to re-register. Not only that, but I found out from Shelby, second Person Out There, that my new service would not be hooked up for another week.
This is when I truly became an unpleasant guy. After sympathetic Shelby, I tried other People Out There to see if one of them could get me back on the highway. Nope. Not Madeline, not David (although he at least said he could), nor Sudheer, with whom I chatted online from a coffee shop.
You must be at home to troubleshoot your problem, Sudheer typed. But I have no Internet at home, so how can I troubleshoot? I typed back. I understand, Sudheer typed. I am sorry you are having a problem. You can call our tech support number at xxx-ooo-xoxo, which is available 24/7. But Sudheer, dear Sudheer down there on the other side of the world, that is the same number I called yesterday and got ABSOLUTELY NO HELP!
This is where spiritual wisdom did in fact emerge from the darkness. And it said: Charley, it is time for you to submit. Stop fighting the man (and the woman named Carrie) and just, as Paul would say, let it be. In the great scheme of things, this problem is very small. In a few days it will go away. Probably.
For now, just enjoy the fact that you are not plugged in every minute of every day to the great out there. Spend more time in here with yourself, your charmingly printed books and your loved ones.
After all, there are better x’s and o’s to be had than can be found online.