Refuge From the Internet: Does it Exist?

// Posted by on 04/02/2014 (2:03 PM)

This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship with time before we a experience a future we didn’t expect. The constant use of technology and internet is stifling the creativity of our culture by making too much information readily available and holding our generation back from creating anything original. I agree with Rushkoff in a lot of ways; I think that we are extremely distracted from the present and that this could be hurtful to our generation.

I read a few articles from Wired that I think connect well with Rushkoff’s book and our class discussions about the constant use of internet all over the world. While it used to be hard to find a place to get internet connection and surf the wed, it’s now harder to find an escape from it. If we open up our computers to find that we don’t have wifi, we’re more shocked than we are if we find that we do have it. A long car ride used to be an excuse to sit back, relax, and listen to a few CDs. Now people have “hotspots” on their phones that allow them to get internet access on their computers and phones while in motion. It has even gotten to the point where certain people have anxiety if they don’t have access to their e-mails, texts, and tweets, even while they’re, say, in a plane thousands of feet above ground. This shows us that the places that used to be sanctuaries from the technological world and our always-on lives are now being invaded.

“[To get away] we go where it’s impossible to connect, no matter what. But quite soon those gaps will all be filled. Before much longer, the entire planet will be smothered in signal, and we won’t be able to find places that are off the grid” (Honan, 2013).

The quote above is from a 2013 article in Wired called “Can’t Get Away From It All? The Problem Isn’t Technology- It’s You.” The author talks about broadening internet access throughout the country, and how the places that we used to escape to are now places you can be completely plugged-in. Mat Honan, the author of the article thinks that if we can learn to resist the urge to go online, we can create these places of refuge for ourselves. But can these places even be considered sanctuaries from our internet lives if we can get in touch with anyone and search anything? Will we compromise our sanity in we continue down this road? Where can we get away from our online lives if we have internet access everywhere we go?

The image above shows the places that we have internet access in orange, and the places we don’t in dark red (as of September 2013). The places that aren’t orange are mostly uninhabited areas. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

The second article, by the same author, was about wifi on airplanes. Even if it’s possible, says the author, airlines might want to reconsider the degree to which we can access this. The article talks about how much we will probably disturb one another making phone calls, streaming movies, hogging the outlet plugs, or even skyping and facetiming with the people below. Is it really necessary to have access to these things while we’re flying? I know this might be convenient, but I still don’t think its healthy for us to have access to all of these in-flight gadgets.

“If you’re really looking to unplug, the connection you have to sever isn’t electronic anymore—it’s mental” (Honan, 2013)

I think that the novelty of the idea of having internet wherever you go has worn off, and just as soon as Americans realize the state of present shock we are in, we might all long to be in a place where we can’t have access to everything at our fingertips. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?




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Emily said...

I 100% agree with the idea that being able to “unplug” isn’t solely electronic anymore, its definitely mental. People thinking they NEED electronics is cultural and it is the mind set of most Americans because of the way our culture has evolved. To change this, there needs to be at least a countrywide maybe even worldwide mentality shift…. Which to me seems pretty unlikely. We are just in too deep at this point and we’ve developed a dependency we can’t bounce back from. The only possible solution that comes to mind would be laws to monitor and govern electronic use (which seems kinda crazy)…. So therefore, I don’t see any rational/effective solution unless a movement is sparked to set proper use in place. I just think it is extremely unrealistic to essentially technologically retrace our steps and all of the advances we have made in the electronic world. Although, I can’t think of the country but this country just passed laws that limits work interaction/email on the weekends, basically to give people an actual break. I could see this being really successful and could possibly provide a motive for other countries to do the same. I think this could be really beneficial to the US. Furthermore, electronic use is dangerous in more than one way. We are the guinea pig generation in that because of our overuse of electronics, we may be more susceptible to cancer/radiation/etc. Decreasing our daily use and dependence is clearly helpful in many areas of our lives.

// 04/07/2014 at 1:58 pm

Sarah said...

I agree with much of what you said. The accessibility of Internet in pretty much all locations across the country has made disconnecting yourself extremely difficult. Most of us having smartphones, we can use the Internet anytime we want anywhere we want which may be an advantage some of the time but it has changed the way we go about everyday life and it may not be a welcomed change.

My problem with all of this however is that we are giving ourselves zero credit in the department of self-control. If we aren’t able to “disconnect” ourselves we can’t blame the expansion of wifi we need to also blame ourselves. I think most of us are capable of turning off out phones or laptops for any period of time. While on vacation its very easy to leave your laptop at home and just switch off your phone. Even if you want a Sunday afternoon free of the Internet and constant human contact, leaving your phone behind is a simple solution.

The real problem stems from the fact that it is hard to function in a job without wifi, making it hard to be successful and disconnected at the same time. We often have to stay connected to hear from work, from family or hear the news. This need is what is probably causing the anxiety some may feel when they are disconnected. But I believe that if someone is feeling extremely anxious when not in wifi or using data then they should take a step back and think about the situation. Yes, we can get the Internet if we need it but we don’t have to always NEED to be connected. This problem has a few different levels but on the basic level I think it shouldn’t be too hard to leave behind a phone or laptop.

// 04/08/2014 at 1:26 pm