[Editor's Note - This column originally ran on the site on June 29, 2011.]
This past weekend I moved from Richmond, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. Currently, I don’t have Internet access at my new place. I don’t want to be too overly dramatic about how tough that’s been, but I honestly think it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to anyone in the history of the world.
It’s made me realize just how much I’ve come to depend on the Internet. I need it. I need my daily fix. My body craves LOL Cats and hipster versions of various cartoon characters from my youth. I don’t truly feel alive unless I start my morning by checking my Google news feed and reading the latest on WWTDD and Filmdrunk. If an uncoordinated man falls over on YouTube and I’m not there to see it, does he still make a groaning sound?
What is life these days without the Internet? Do I really still exist if I’ve become unplugged? If the Internet has become our equivalent of The Matrix, am I currently existing in some horrible limbo between the computer world and Zion? What pill do I need to take to get back online? Whatever it is, I need it. I need my fix right now.
Like any good junkie, I’ve been going to great lengths to get that fix these past few days. I’ve driven around seeking out every seedy Panera Bread and Hooters I can just to use their free WiFi. (The Hooters girls might as well have been wearing sweatsuits and curlers because I never once looked up from my computer screen while I was in there.) Yesterday, things got so bad that for a few fleeting moments of Internet access I went to one of the grungiest, dirtiest, most depressing places on Earth – the public library.
But like any addiction, the highs I get now are nowhere near as strong as the ones I felt before. It’s impossible to recapture that pure euphoria I felt when watching “My Drunk Kitchen” on YouTube for the first time. And it’s not because those videos aren’t as funny the second time – they totally are – it’s just that, with public WiFi, my connection is now so slow that it would take five hours to load those clips. If a site is graphic-heavy, I have to choose between giving up on it and clearing my schedule for the rest of the day. (And trust me, the Hooters girls don’t like it when you sit in there for five hours and only order an iced tea.)
But I can’t live without the Internet. I continue to seek out connections wherever I can find them. I justify this addiction of mine by convincing myself it is a two-way street. I need access to Facebook so that I can “like” my friends’ status updates to let them know I care about them without actually having to post a comment or – God forbid – actually speak to them on the phone. Furthermore, if I’m not there to buy t-shirts off of TeeFury, I worry that all of those talented starving artists will go hungry. And lord knows those Netflix streaming movies in my queue aren’t going to watch themselves.
This whole experience has filled me with bitter resentment toward all of those people I’ve met in my life who have smugly declared that they don’t own a computer. As if being disconnected is something to be proud of. Any poor bastard with anything less than a high-speed Internet connection might as well be Amish. (And hell, even the Amish have websites these days.)
For better or for worse, we are all connected now. And frankly, in this digital world, my smartphone just doesn’t cut it. Access to Angry Birds, my Twitter feed and my Gmail account isn’t really access to the World Wide Web. The G in 3G might as well stand for: “Gee, don’t you wish you were actually online instead of stuck using this horrible fucking Android phone that can’t load anything in a timely fashion and will undoubtedly freeze and force close all of your applications if you touch it the wrong way, so you best just head back to the library and deal with the unwashed masses if you are hoping to read any of your friends’ blogs today, asshole.”
It’s a digital world and, for now, I am decidedly analog. Living without the Internet isn’t really living at all, my friends. Hopefully I will find a way back on full-time soon. If not, please remember all the good times we had together and speak well of me in your status updates. And just know that I would “like” those status updates if I could.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.