Off the Grid

This is technically a twofer – it refers to topics #81: Finish an old draft and #37: Could you live without the internet?. (Also, Michelle poked me to update!)

My initial response to this question is yes, I can live without the internet. Live as in eat, drink and any other necessities for keeping oneself generally alive. But can I really live without it?

It’s interesting how we’ve become so dependent on the internet and connectivity in general. I had a similar discussion with my cousins at a Chinese New Year dinner, one of whom has held out on upgrading her old school flip phone to a smartphone. Back when the iPhone first came out, I resisted buying one for the longest time. I usually carried my laptop with me on campus, where there was plenty of wifi, so why would I need an iPhone at school? I also had an iPod touch, which I carried everywhere – that doubly cancelled out the benefits of an iPhone in my daily life.

People would then ask, “But what about when you’re not near public wifi? Like if you need a map or directions while walking in the city?” It’s true, having Google Maps at your fingertips is incredibly helpful when you’re lost in the city. However, I need directions the most when I’m driving – holding an iPhone while trying to follow a map wouldn’t be so useful (or safe for the world) in that instance. Maybe I’m old fashioned – I always look up maps and directions at home, before I set out (and sometimes even print them out. Gasp, I know).

But hold up, printing out these maps does still require internet and general technology. Using printed books of maps seems so foreign now, but it really wasn’t so long ago that we’d have to look up directions to San Francisco using the old fashioned method. Just a few years back, the most efficient method of getting directions involved asking a wise, sage person for their personal route. If you were venturing to an address in the wild unknown (read: somewhere in LA, where streets extend through multiple cities) with zero knowledge of block numbers, well, good luck with that. I still have an entire glove compartment full of California maps, should I have the horrible luck of my GPS and phone dying on me. Fingers crossed this doesn’t happen, ever.

Oops, I’m really starting to go on a tangent here. To wrap this up, staying in places like Costa Rica and Antarctica for a week (or more) each with no internet, no connectivity, nada, was easy. In fact, that disconnectivity (I think this is actually a math term, but you know what I mean) let us really enjoy everything as it was and as it is. Especially for Antarctica – it was great feeling like we were isolated from the rest of the world, in both the physical and technological sense. A family friend joked that we had no idea what was going on outside of the southern continent – for all we knew, the rest of the world could have been in complete chaos, and the unexpected extension of the trip was saving us from impending doom.

However, this isn’t so much the case for living in San Francisco, the real world (for most of us). So many businesses and jobs use social media and internet technology to boost engagement and provide convenience for customers. Even the bakery down the street from our office uses Square, which requires internet as part of its functionality. Chasing down food trucks like a crazy person? You’ll need to find updates on the internet. Friends connect through email, facebook event invites (so many invites are now online vis-a-vis evite and eventbrite), and tweets. Why call only one person, if you can interact with 20 at the same time via internet?

TLDR; Yes, I can live without internet – in certain circumstances, going off the grid would be preferable. However, it would be very very hard to be disconnected in my daily life, in a world that’s already fully immersed.

You may also like