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It connects everyone, it starts revolutions, provides access to places across the world in seconds, it entertains and informs you, and it gives you a voice. The internet is something that has taken the world by storm in the last couple decades, and it has revolutionized us at a speed and in a fashion that has forced us to adopt in an agile way. According to The Office of Statistics, 90 percent of British households accessed the internet in 2017, that is about 59,916,154 people in England alone. The internet is a tool with limitless purpose; a tool that has become a large part of our daily lives and the activities we carry out. Personally, I use it in order to find directions, for entertainment, communication, research, and countless other tasks that allow me to be a productive and changing person.
Now imagine silence.
There is no blinking light on your phone when you wake up, no screen full of notifications, no alarm clock, no news, nothing; just breath. This is a world without WiFi.
In a world where landlines are an endangered species and in the time it takes of a normal citizen to find stamps or a post office, the content of their letter has changed, no internet means a complete change of pace and communication.
So, you wake up to this new, quiet world. Suddenly, any information you seek is no longer easily challenged. Once upon a time, upon hearing suspicious news, a quick Google search could answer lingering suspicion. Now, you have to trust the local newspaper and the word of the people directly in your life. Education is now something pursued in books and conversation over online journals or documentaries on movie streaming sites. Suddenly, a scene from Orwell’s 1984 comes to mind; Your intelligence is at the mercy of those in control of print and the old forms of information broadcast. This is the time where the people you surround yourself with really matter, because now your voice is no longer your voice, it is the impression left on peoples’ minds after experiencing you with the people with whom you converse. Before, your voice could stand alone on a platform of your choice; It was possible to be casual and flippant among people in the real world and be an outspoken activist in your online web presence, but not anymore.
And suddenly, this quiet world has grown immensely. Your imagination is informing you about the mysterious corners of the world rather than a travel Instagram or a wanderlust Pinterest board. Now these images are forming in your mind as you read the ancient words of explorers’ journals and listening to the stories of people returning from the exotic lands you once could have produced pages of information on in seconds, but now are just as alien to you as they were four hundred years ago to the explorers who plotted our planet and drew the maps we so glibly used to refer to.
Now you must survive here, you must adapt and develop as quickly to the internet, but now in an opposite trajectory. The social skills we all lost and referred to as social anxiety must now be addressed because now it is all about who you know, not what you know. So you go outside… but then what?
Think back to being a child. Children see people doing something interesting and join; they chat and bond over their common ground. Do that. So you walk, and you find them. There are people in a group, talking about one topic or another, they seem safe, and you join. Sit on the outskirts of their conversation, gently join, but not too fast, you don’t want to spook them. You invest time into the process, because after all now you need people, lonely people lack the tools that are no longer subsidized by social media and online platforms.
A scene like this, of vulnerability and dependence on community, is scary. The certainty we fool ourselves into having disappears and we are at the mercy of the information that is given to us. With this in mind, it is important to consider the blessing we have in technology. Yes, information protection and the dissolve of innocence is a problem, but it is nary an issue in the face of voice-less-ness and ignorance. We each have the ability to learn about anything we choose, and to be critical of the issues around us. We have access to history and current events, and the power to prevent global tragedy from growing from legal roots as it has in the past. For the first time, we have the means to prevent mass ignorance and stop the makings of tragedy in its tracks. No more should the issue of hatred threaten the lives of communities from foreign lands, nor should it build walls between neighbors. Now knowledge has the ability to be the building blocks of love and empathy, it is from here that we build a better future and put a stop to dictatorial ruling and unjust treatment of our global community.