Saturday, 4 April 2015

5 Weeks Without Internet

We switched internet providers recently, and when I was told that we might not have internet for six weeks, I didn’t really believe it (or didn’t want to). We’d been exceeding the 32 GB monthly gap consistently and racking up big bills, so we switched to an unlimited service. Only, to get that we needed a landline, something my house didn’t have. It takes a really long time to get a landline put in, as it turns out.


We cancelled the service a few days before it actually went, so every time there was a blip in the reception I wondered whether this was the end. But I was away when our O2 wifi went away forever, so the first day I witnessed it was, as far as I can remember, the evening of Friday 27th February. As I post this, on Saturday 4th April, it has been 5 weeks since then.

I’m not at home for the next few days, either – I’m somewhere with wifi, coincidentally – so I don’t even know if there’ll be wifi when I get back. It could be that I hope too soon. Anyway, enough of the dramatics. Let me tell you the story.

I am addicted to the internet. That’s not unusual for my age group, to be honest, but I’m probably a particularly bad case. I use the internet for leisure, (little) money and to contact the outside world. I live in an isolated country house and own a Nokia that most certainly doesn’t have 3G, and my friends live between twenty minutes and six hours away by car, so it’s pretty impossible for me to interact with them often without internet.

Now, there was one thing that alleviated the lack of contact with the outside world. On the same Friday, I was bought the Nokia and a month of free texts and calls. This would be my lifeline. You know, I consider myself an introvert (and I don’t think anyone would argue with that), but I never realised how used I was to constant contact with friends, acquaintances and the world at large. Media pundits say that tHe YoUTh (spooky) spend all their time on technology and none interacting, but I’ve come to realise that the main thing I use worldwide connectivity for is to, well, connect with the world. The abundant information is an excellent bonus.

I essentially missed the first week of WifiGate, since I was at a hotel Sunday to Thursday, then just Thursday evening without wifi before going to Dad’s and Ciarán’s, both of which have wifi. Then it got bad.

Sitting at home without internet was pretty awful, especially at the weekends and before I figured out what to do with myself. I must have listened to “what.” about seven times, and I’m painfully familiar with all the music on my computer. That’s not the worst of it. When I ran out of things to do – I couldn’t even read at night, because there’s no light in my bedroom – I started going through the Camera Roll on my laptop. There are 2,169 photos in the Camera Uploads folder alone, and I went through the entire thing in sequence twice, and plenty of other times dipping in and out of it and other folders.

So what solutions did I come up with? Well, I definitely used the Young Scientist perks. MOR actually gave out to me for not using the Young Scientist wifi at first, so I started bringing my laptop into school every day in a laptop bag and pulling it out at lunch and before school, desperately using internet. I discovered something pretty awful, though – when you have a limited amount of internet, it can be hard to think of things to do on it. No matter how much you needed it when it wasn’t there. Also, the school wifi blocks Facebook, Tumblr, any blogging or personal sites, Cracked, etc. So once I was cut off from my normal internet routing, I was a fish out of water, using awful clichés just like that.

I also got bolder – towards the end, I started asking teachers during free classes and during doss classes if I could do some work on my laptop. I never clarified what I was doing, but everyone I asked said yes. I always say: it’s amazing what you can get by asking. I was working most of the time, just not necessarily on school projects. Mostly, I wrote/posted blog posts. As it turns out, lunch has very little uninterrupted time when you consider queueing up for food, crossing the school to my classroom, eating, going to whatever extra-curricular there is that day and going to my locker (okay, that one usually got neglected). I did get a lot of leeway from teachers, and I’m grateful for that. Mutual respect is awesome.

The students were more questioning, and I think it annoyed some people to see me cart my laptop around all the time. That’s their problem, though – they could do it too, if they wanted. A lot of people asked me “Why do you always have your laptop?” and if I didn’t like them I just said “Because I want it.” (For people I was sure weren’t making fun of me, I explained.) It’s very liberating to feel like you don’t have to explain yourself to people you don’t like. You actually come across a lot better when you’re not trying to justify yourself to them. Gives you an air of mystery too, which is great if you’re secure in your popularity level (i.e. you’ve stopped caring).

I don’t like to admit it, but there were some benefits. I finally finished some of the books I was bought for Christmas – screw that, I finally finished some books full stop. It’s so very easy to waste time on the internet, but when I had to spend entire weekends with no outside input other than the radio and the occasional text, I had quiet time to read books – and nothing more grabbing to pull me away. Sure, I’m an avid reader, but lots of things on the internet have actually been engineered to seize your attention, and books are a quieter sort of entertainment, one that requires patience (and oh how the internet has eroded my patience).

Another benefit was that I felt sort of calmer. When I have internet, I’m addicted to checking my email, doing it far too many times a day just in case I have an important email, and I’ve developed this email anxiety where I’m afraid to read the emails in case they’re (a) important and (b) negative. Because in the past year or so, the importance of my emails and the capacity they have to damage or propel my various projects has increased hugely. I did have that general, low-lying panic that might be better described as cabin fever – I don’t know what’s going on with the world, and they don’t know what’s going on with me, I’m so isolated, my blog is barren – but even though I’m enjoying myself while spending an evening scrolling e.g. Tumblr, it’s not as satisfying as messing around with my siblings or reading a book.

Also, don’t tell anyone (apart from the entire world, this is a blog) I said this – I still want and value the cheap thrills of the internet, I promise. Don’t excommunicate me!

Oh, and about the landline installation – we’ve had people come out on three separate occasions to install one, and as it stands we have half a landline. Despite all the going back and forth between provider and the technician firm, who refuse to communicate with each other, the last guy came out a few days ago, did half a job and said he couldn’t finish it because our roof was too high. Seriously.

But yeah, because I didn’t know where I’d next get internet I had to start planning ahead a lot more. Leaving school last Friday, I opened up around eight long articles that I could read to help me pass time. I downloaded everything I could, and made the most of time when I actually had internet (to anyone I took advantage of for their internet, I’m sorry – desperate times call for desperate measures).

It got really bad around the 28th of March, when my free texts and calls went. Now, unless I convinced/enlisted my sister, I had literally no way of contacting the outside world remotely. If I wanted to talk to someone, I just had to hope they called me. If someone texted me, I couldn’t reply, and I couldn’t even explain why I was being so rude. I actually had this system going where (when I could persuade her) I would send texts on her phone and then tell the receiver to reply to my phone because her phone is screwed up and keeps just receiving the same few messages over and over, which was pretty weird.

I also worried that I was really annoying friends, particularly Ciarán and Seán, because I always wanted to call. In fairness, it was a way to feel connected, but their internet was just dandy so I feel kinda bad.

And, of course, I’ve terribly neglected the blog. In my defence, it was really hard to blog without internet. But in case there’s no internet when I get home, I’m going to stack up i.e. Schedule posts to keep y’all satiated.

The whole thing was spectacularly isolating, if you were wondering. Losing internet temporarily was survivable, but it was still awful and tremendously inconvenient. I tried to study Physics one weekend without internet, and realised how reliant I was on being able to look up the answers to see whether or not I was right. How could I do corrections like that? Doing my Fiverr work became a lot harder, and I had to apologise to buyers for late deliveries but really, what could I do? It’s just assumed that everyone has internet. I think the worst thing was the sense of powerlessness.

I really, really hope internet is there when I get home, but for now I’m just going to enjoy the next few days of a very precious resource and Skype to my heart’s content. I love you, unlimited internet. I love you.

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