What If the Internet Stops Working?
Science & Tech / /
Going without the internet even for an hour for many people is almost the end of the world. But in case it actually stops working, the impact would be much significant than what we could expect.
Jeff Hancock likes to challenge his students at Stanford University giving them weekend assignments that make them experience different concepts and then discuss the outcome in the class. He used to challenge them not to use Internet for 48 hours back in 2008, but when he returned to work in 2009, after a year-long sabbatical, things were not as expected.
“When I tried to introduce the task, there was a class revolt. The students emphatically said the assignment was impossible and unfair,” says Hancock, who studies the psychological and social processes involved in online communication.
They argued that going offline would enable them from completing their obligations, would influence negatively on their social lives, and make their friends and family worried that something bad had happened to them.
I don’t know what students today would do if I asked them to stay off the internet – they’d probably report me to the university president – said Jeff Hancock.
As BBC reports, in 1995, fewer than 1% of the world’s population was usig internet. It was a curiosity. 20 years later more than 3.5 bn people – around half of all people in the world – have an internet connection and the number is growing at a rate of around 10 people per second.
“One of the biggest problems with the internet today is that people take it for granted – yet they don’t understand the degree to which we’ve allowed it to infiltrate almost every aspect of our lives,” says William Dutton at Michigan State University. “They don’t even think about not having access to it.”
He now claims that the idea of losing the internet is likely to be based on our socioeconomic status.
We as human beings are used to be able to connect to anyone, anywhere and at any time, in case the internet stops there is a huge possibility that it would cause psychological effects, like feelings of isolation and anxiety.
“There’s this idea that maybe people would become more social and more in touch with friends and family if they didn’t have use of the internet, but I think that’s really mistaken,” Dutton says. “Most people using the internet are actually more social than those who are not using the internet.”
Stine Lomborg at the University of Copenhagen ads that “it’s not like we’d be more likely to speak to strangers at the bus stop if we didn’t have our smartphones – not at all.” But it can make people more social in specific situations, such as forcing people to speak to each other rather than sending messages, even though in this stage such an experience is likely to be distressing.
Stoping the internet may make people realize its importance in their lives, says Hancock. “I’d like to say an internet blackout would cause a shift in our thinking, but I don’t think it would.”
Despite that it will still not ne enough to make his students to give it up even for a weekend.