Image via cheezburger.
When you consider that the human race survived for several thousand years without global connectivity, it hasn’t taken us long to forget how we managed before. A technological snafu this week gave me the opportunity to experience the full horror of a wifi-less world first hand, and let me tell you. I learned more about myself and the world in that short space of time than I do from my usual hourly rotation with Web MD.
It was almost as scary, too.
Disbelief (repeatedly turning PC on and off) gave way to anger (shouting abuse at unhelpful broadband tech advisor), bargaining (offering to buy the tech guy a cake if he would sort it out), then a depression refreshed with F5 every few minutes until I finally accepted my fate. Having wasted the whole of Monday, I set about Tuesday with renewed vigour and a vague idea about doing all the non-internet based stuff on my desk that I had valiantly been ignoring for the last few months.
I should probably declare my interest at this point for control purposes. I use Twitter to keep up with the news, Facebook to keep in touch with a few old friends and news/sports sites for information gathering and writing material. I’m not particularly obsessive and I certainly didn’t swear off the internet deliberately so I could write a piece about how pervasive it is, how it’s usage is reducing concentration levels in children and propagating lethargy, cynicism and a lack of engagement with life.
Therefore, it is with great sadness and not an insignificant level of annoyance, that I have to now tell you the difference in my output was huge. Without any ill-effects, I cruised through hours of work instead of the short, distracted bursts I usually manage between checking whether Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant survived England’s second practice session. I drank just as much coffee, but got five, maybe six times as much work done.
Various clever types have observed that human beings concentrate more effectively in short bursts. After my week of insular incarceration, I can confirm that this is totally true. And for many of us who work at a desk with unlimited, unmonitored access to the internet, social networking can be really useful for giving the mind a quick break before hurling oneself into the fray of busywork once more. But where in the process does it go from being a reliable, fun friend to a crazed stalker whose lurking behind that hedge and watching your every move and affecting how you conduct yourself?
I don’t doubt that I will return to my favoured status of ‘omnipresent’ from next week. But at least I’m old enough to remember a time when mobile phones, instant messaging, status updates and FourSquare didn’t exist. I also love books, real newspapers and the idea that if I really put my mind to it, I can concentrate on my work properly and get tons done.
Unfortunately, kids who were born in the last ten years or so who aren’t lucky enough to have caring parents help them navigate through the technological jungle will never have that to fall back on.
There’s a lot to be said for being ‘old’, y’know.