Even if you aren't wired in as I am, the average person has still invested a lot of him or herself into the internet. The average user of Facebook has plenty of photos they have de-tagged. We've all posted a comment on a forum that, years from now, will make us cringe. The net effect of all this is that we've changed our behavior. Whereas earlier people would avoid the camera or smile pleasantly, they now pose and try to create something memorable. We cultivate reputations in forums through post counts or just by responding to one another. We write reviews of our favorite products or send chain letters with funny jokes attached. We are all beginning to act like tiny celebrities.
For five days, I struggled to figure out what I was supposed to feel without it. I was reminded of a quote by Carl Jung: "Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for." The internet is changing things and costing us in ways no one can predict. Newspapers are dying, mortgage owners now check their loan rates and all forms of media are trying to cope with digital piracy. More revolutionary is how much of our lives has been transferred to just one means of communication. Yet the truth is that going without the internet for five days is entirely tolerable. There are still plenty of satisfying alternatives. You can just call your friends, peruse a book pulled randomly from the shelf or flick on the TV. The appeal of the internet is not in its necessity but rather the possibilities it generates.
Hell, is anyone really here because they need to be? If Warhol was right about us all getting our 15 minutes of fame eventually, then you realize that recognition comes pretty cheap. Fame is just people paying attention to you, regardless of the merits of what you're doing. That's relatively easy to get on the internet, but as five days off the grid proved to me, it's also pretty easy to get away from.
L.B. Jeffries is a law student from South Carolina who spends too much time playing videogames or screwing around on The Escapist forums instead of studying. He writes reviews, articles and a weekly blog for the videogames section of Popmatters.