After a month of intermittent Internet drop-outs, I woke up last week to discover that my broadband had finally pooped out. I tried all the usual stuff ? rebooting my modem, checking all the connections, etc? but it was toast. The cable company promised to send someone as fast as it could ? which would be roughly six days later.
Well, if there's one thing a week without broadband taught me, it's that having a smartphone is critical for my sanity. Maybe not everyone feels this way. They might find that the Internet's not necessary to live a joyous and fruitful life. But while that may be true for some, I definitely don't live in that world.
How do you know what's going on with friends when you can't check social apps? And that e-vite to the hip, last-minute loft party in the East Village? Forget it. Instead you?re sitting at home, dressing your cats in stupid outfits, because you've got no idea the invitation's languishing in your Inbox. Oh, and your job? Forget that too, because when you work on the Web, having no connection is like getting suspended without pay. Except without the crazy, fun, ?F*-it? trip to Cabo.
And all that was just the first day.
Thank goodness for my smartphone. Already smitten with the iPhone, I was now completely head over heels in love with it, since it was my only link to the outside.
I?m not alone in these feelings. When my friend's area blacked out during the last big snowstorm in New England, his whole family was cut off from civilization. Maybe his smartphone couldn't turn the lights and hot water on, but it did allow him to use a cellular signal to get online and check local news reports on the outage, connect with the outside world, comparison-shop generators, use it as a flashlight and enjoy some diversion by playing a game or two. Sure, he had to get in his car to recharge it, but it was worth the hassle.
Similarly, I also got back to a semblance of normalcy. In fact, the only thing I couldn't do on my cell phone was work. (Have you ever tried writing more than a few lines on an iPhone? Not easy or fun.) Other than that, I survived just fine thanks to a combination of built-in apps ? like Mobile Safari, Mail, YouTube and iTunes ? plus a few others. While modem tethering would've been awesome, it's not available yet without jailbreaking.
Now looking back at the whole experience, I wonder if I am just a product of my generation. Am I so jacked in that I can barely survive without a Web connection? Would I succumb to the fate of my brethren, the ranks of pasty-skinned nerds who cringe in the sunlight? You know the sort who can't wait until anatomical bio ports become widely available.
Okay, ick. That's a bit out there, even for me. I still like enjoy offline pursuits, like reading a book, going camping or relaxing at a lakeside retreat. But even so, this recent down period really had me frazzled.
I guess choosing to go offline is very different from suddenly being cut off. Like going on vacation to an idyllic tropical island, versus being marooned on one ?Lost?-style. Then next thing you know, your cousin Bobby's calling dibs on your car and your landlord's renting out your apartment.
In the end, I realized that all my soul-searching was for naught. I?m just fine. Actually, I?m totally and completely normal.
It's been well-documented that man has an inherent need for community ? a fact that I understand more than ever now. Connecting with others is simply a human necessity, one that existed long before Facebook, Twitter and SMS texts. But what these tools offer is peace of mind, the comforting knowledge that man is not alone, delivered in a highly efficient and easy-to-use UI.
Thanks to my smartphone, I've got that peace of mind. And since that is priceless, I've also pretty much justified to myself the expense of upgrading when the new iPhone hits the market ? which is almost enough to make the whole experience worthwhile.