Could You Live Without Internet Connectivity?

Brian Welsh
Nov 4, 2010

It's hard to believe that the web as we know it is still a teenager. No other teenager in all of history has had such a massive impact on life. Throughout world history, technology has fostered change in human society but never at such a rapid pace as the changes today. Like a person aging or gaining weight who fails to notice when they look in the mirror each day, society moves blindly forward, oblivious to the changes that are unfolding in it. How can we see just how far reaching the effects are? How can we observe just how far things have progressed? Simple. Strip away the web, one device at a time and see how that simple imaginary task would change the ways that those devices are used. Like a fat man forced to see that his clothes don't fit, if we can't use the devices, we see the changes.

What specific web-enabled devices would be impacted or changed if they didn't have internet connectivity?

While your first impulse might be to say that the phone and computer would be the only things affected by a lack of connectivity, the truth is that a great number of devices rely on connectivity for functionality. Many of the hottest products on the market today would become worthless without the connectivity that makes them so attractive. What are they? The list is giant. Home computers, office computers, laptops, netbooks, iPads and other tablets, MP3 players, iPhones, Android phones, smart phones of all kinds, GPS devices, Kindles and other e-readers, GPS devices, mapping programs, classified ads such as craigslist, news sites such as CNN, game devices such as the WII and XBOX, and even new additions such as internet televisions. No connectivity and we might as well go back to the devices of the past. While this article will not examine all of the connected devices in society, it will look at those which have the most impact on our daily lives.

Let's start with the most simple. Imagine that your home computer suddenly lost the ability to access the internet. Sure, there are still plenty of interactive programs to use on it, but lets be honest, the vast majority of time spent on home computers is spent writing or answering email, chatting on Facebook, MSN, or Yahoo, making calls using Skype, or simply watching videos on YouTube and browsing the web.

Without the internet, your computer once again becomes a word processor. Not much more than a glorified typewriter. You can play video games, but not interact and frankly, playing on the WII is a better venue than the PC. Your computer would move back to the dusty corner it occupied in the early 1990's and would be used to write, work on spread sheets, and maybe you would still use it to listen to music which would all have to be imported through CDs! No more downloads, no more file sharing, no more researching, and no more viral videos. Not only that, but no more Facebook or email. You would have to sit down and write letters to the people you loved or call them. In fact, you might even prefer to sit and hand write a letter instead of typing it if the instant gratification of email were to disappear. No more World of Warcraft, Yahoo answers, Google search, or Wikipedia. If you want to buy the Encyclopeidia Britannica CD-ROMS though, you might be able to find them in a second hand store.

How would the loss of connectivity affect how you use your home computer or other devices?

The truth is that our society has changed so much over the last decade because of the advent of connected technology that like the fat man in the mirror, we are sometimes oblivious to it. Young people have never known what it is like to receive a hand written letter or in some cases to buy a book!

Some sources say that the average western person spends more time online than in being engaged in any other activity!

The amount of time most people use their computers would shrink to something like a few hours a week from a few hours a day. Significant, yes. Suddenly, people would be spending time together (in person) and have to actually move around to experience a change in environment. Odd.

Next let's look at mobile computing devices. Laptops, iPads, and Netbooks. Let's face it, without connectivitiy, most people wouldn't bother to carry their machines around with them. Sales on all three items would plummet. You would have to actually visit a brick and mortar store in order to download movies, music, or books onto your devices. No more email, gaming, browsing , or chatting. Unless you are a writer or a person who uses a significant amount of offline time to begin with, chances are that you wouldn't bother carrying the laptop with you anywhere. Once again all of the uses outlined for the home computer apply here but in a mobile way. Let's face it, we like laptops and other carry around computers because they let us connect. If you took away the connectivity, you would find that most users would choose to leave their machines at home or not to buy them in the first place.

Moving on to the Kindle. Would it make any sense to have a kindle if you had to go to a brick and mortar shop every time you wanted to buy a new book to load on it? Wouldn't most people simply buy the books in the old fashioned print form? The Kindle would be nothing more than a curiosity without connectivity.

In terms of the WII and XBOX, people would still use them, but the interactivity is a significant reason why people upgraded from their old Nintendo 64s.

Now, what about phones? How would usage change if there was no connectivity to you iPhone or Android mobile. You would have to buy new apps from the store. No more web, no more email, no more maps, no more GPS. Would the iPhone have been a success without the connectivity of YouTube, iTunes, and email? Probably not. The phone would once again be a device for talking to people. Sure, you could still play games, listen to music, or use the calculator. The camera would still work, but in today's world, the number two use of phones is email and internet. This would disappear.

Other devices that would suffer from a lack of connectivity are MP3 players and GPS devices. Without connectivity, they become not so incredibly useful any longer. You can't download music or access maps without a connection. Would we go back to vinyl and cassettes? Probably not, but we would certainly see stores like Tower Records reemerge in retail areas.

To sum up, if we were to lose connectivity, the world as we know it would revert back to a sort of 1990's form in which people didn't know as soon as their friends changed their relationship status, music, videos, and games would have to be bought in actual shops, and people would have to spend more time with one another – in person. Now that I think about it, it doesn't sound so bad.


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  1. Jeroen van Loon said on November 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Life Needs Internet

    An art project about the impact of the rise of digital technology on different cultures today.

  2. Jonathan said on December 11, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I agree that the world would be a greater place if either the connection were gone or if having a connection for in home use were none existent. I’m 19 yrs old, and I honestly feel like I am one of say 1,000. I did a exercise in class a couple of weeks ago that basically had the question of ” If you could make a perfect college or school what would be needed to accomplish that.” I kid you not, everyone but myself and one other person who was pushing 50 yrs said that we all need computers and technology in class. Going through high school I felt like the only one not on their cell phone and computer or face book all the time. Because I don’t use the computer or my electronic devices as a life line like my friends I have succesfully made myself a black sheep. Being born in 91 I didn’t have the internet in home untill i was 10 or so and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had experienced a life without. Kids born late 90s and on had no chance. Get up and write a letter or go visit your neighbor. You will be happier I promise.

  3. Mezanul said on November 5, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I can’t even imagine living disconnected, so the answer for me is no! LOL

  4. kalmly said on November 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I could live. It’s a great convenience but I never got past the attitude that a computer is a tool – the best tool ever! – but a tool. I still use it for work, research, and organization. A database, a spreadsheet app, several word processors, several information managers, and writing programs live on my hard drive. Twitter – nope. Facebook – nope. Email – checked 2 X/day. Online programs? Never. So without connectivity, quickie research and email would be a fond memory, but not a devastating loss.

    Phones are for phone calls. (Silly, huh?)

    iPads? I don’t need/want one.

    Laptop? I like it because I can take my projects with me when I have to be away from the desktop.

  5. Yoav said on November 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    “Could You Live Without Internet Connectivity?” You could just have written the correct answer: “no” and saved yourself the trouble of writing the whole article…

  6. ReX said on November 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Only until I ran out of movies, anime, tv shows, manga ,games, etc… that I have saved somewhere. And like Dan said, only if everyone would have no internet as well.

  7. aftermath said on November 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    People are notoriously inept at differentiating between can and should. You can eat at every meal McDonald’s everyday, but you shouldn’t. In the same spirit, the question in your life should NEVER be “Could You Live Without Internet Connectivity?” Rather, you should be contemplating the question “should you ever put your life in a position where you cannot live without connectivity?” If your answer to the former question is “no”, then you’ve already messed up. A famous quote about money also applies to Internet connectivity: “we blame money, when in reality we reject the responsibility for becoming dependent on something which we know to be flawed”. In other words, those people too dumb to resist the temptation to discard their lives into the void by predicate their technology interactions on connectivity will get what they deserve. Unfortunately, the marketing tells us that it’s all “fun and cool”, but the reality is quite the opposite.

  8. Dan said on November 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    If everyone lost connectivity, then it would be great, but if it was just me – that would suck since I rely on the internet to telecommute. LOL

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