I’m so hooked!

Last week I decided to unplug, perhaps in the literal sense. I went away for a small vacation – nothing much – just a little more than a week with my family. Its not easy – unplugging that is. Despite the promise I made to myself (and the family), the first thing I did when I checked into the hotel, was to hook up my laptop to their broadband and judge for myself if the connection deserved to be called a broadband (it did!). Who was I fooling! This is all the while the bell-boy is anxiously waiting and coughing at the entrance to my hotel room, in the hopes that I will stop drooling over my new found Internet speeds and give him his much deserved tip as he expects. Did I mention the cross-eyed look one gets from the wife and kid when Daddy-O connects the laptop first. Not a pleasant experience.
I could fathom myself having such a connection at home – downloading megabytes, no make that gigabytes of data, streaming video, VoIP, download movies, watch movie trailers and not miss a beat. Snap! I had to come back to reality. I had to part way with the hotel room and do what people usually do on vacations – enjoy themselves (outside the hotel room). Arrgh – the physical world! The Internet it seems is everywhere, even if you try to escape it – it find you. Its like radio signals – they are all around you whether you like it or not. I went to the malls and sure enough it was WiFi enabled. Went to the food court – same thing. I strolled along looking for a good bookstore to spend some time in – and I came across no less than three Internet cafes. Walk into any computer store – and all the laptops, computers, etc. are wired. It was time to come to the conclusion – that the Internet is all around us. There is no escape. I did not however, check if the bathrooms were WiFi enabled – now wouldn’t that be something.

Any ways, I tried to be as unplugged as I could possibly be, but inevitably you get drawn into it. I wanted to check my hotel bill (as to how much we had amassed), and the front-desk told me to look at my TV remote and there is a button for “View Bill”. Sure enough when I clicked on it – my bill was instantaneously displayed. I was also informed that I could access the bill anytime from the Internet. How nice! While I was exiting from the “Billing Menu” on the TV, I accidentally it seemed pressed the button for “Internet” and the next thing I see – a browser waiting for me to type stuff into – on TV. Perhaps the coolest thing I saw was Internet in an elevator. How about that. It was touch screen based and needless to say only one person can use it – but I thought what a novel idea. I bet you people will now have fights as to who wants to have a go at it first. The more I think about our dependence on the Internet, the more I learn to accept it like an everyday utility or entertainment source like electricity or the radio (respectively). Its here to stay. More and more people I saw in the malls seem to be sending SMS – upon inquiry I found out everyone was trying to get online to their messenger or check their email, etc. Free Internet service – it always up for grabs.

Well, after one week of relative disconnect – I reconnected and truly am online to check out on all I’ve missed – hoping nothing major has occurred – and whoa! To my surprise. Oracle buys Seibel corporation for $5+ billion. Skype gets snapped up by eBay, Vint Cerf, who co-developed the Internet protocol, joins Google. All this in a short span of one week when I decide not to spend too much time online. It seems with this constant streaming of information to us, we are hooked on the Internet big time. I recently decided to ask my friends who use the ‘net regularly, what is it that bothers them. Their answers can pretty much be wrapped up in two:

(a) dependency of their data on the Internet, afraid to loose password, etc. for their Yahoo! Or Hotmail accounts, etc.
(b) always thinking when they are away from the computer that they might be missing out on something. The constant urge to check and refresh the browser.

I would like to paraphrase their answers differently or perhaps push my viewpoint. The human mind is a hungry organ. One that is hungry for knowledge and communication. Its what makes us different as human beings and separates us from the rest – i.e. animals.

The internet offers such temporary relief.

There is a wealth of information out there and we are on the constant lookout (via email or browsing or chatting, etc) to learn about it – read it, engage it, pass it on, use it as a stepping stone to find yet more information. Its perhaps this very quest (in my opinion) that keeps us incessantly plugged into the internet. I find out is not that I cannot unplug (okay – I’ll admit – I cannot), but it’s a case of acute something in me that wants to explore more, things that may or may not interest me. My supposition is perhaps I’m waiting for the next email, news item, accidental link that will lead me to another page of information that I would like to learn (&/or read) about, food for thought if you will. Its this very uneasy, never-ending wait that keeps me plugged in, for that is my entertainment. I hope the rest of you will actually go out and enjoy the brick-and-mortar world out there on your next vacation, whilst I just may settle to see your photographs posted on Flickr.

This Article was originally written for Money Magazine

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