Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Unplugged
Are you old enough to remember a time before the internet was part of your day? Do you remember when information was found in encyclopedias and you had to wait to find out what had happened yesterday by reading the morning and/or afternoon newspaper or by tuning into the broadcasted evening news on one of four television channels? Back then, if you missed it, you missed it. We somehow survived without knowing who wore what to what awards ceremony in Hollywood until a month later when popular magazines hit the newsstand. To say times have changed would be a gross and obvious understatement.
When I was in my senior year of high school, I participated in a work study program which landed me in an office job at IBM. One day, our entire building of engineers, scientists and support staff was called together to listen to a major announcement. I was 17 and did not pay close attention to the voice droning over the loudspeaker but learned IBM had made some kind of innovation and before too long, computers would be in the average American home. At the time, computers were gigantic! They filled huge rooms in multiple buildings at IBM. I could not fathom the transformation, nor the use. What would I do with a computer in my house?
It was years before I owned one. The world wide web was just beginning to chug along and between my dial up service and my bag phone, I thought I was technologically advanced. Oh, the excitement of dialing into the web! I remember the sound of the digits and then the fuzzy noises and beeping while I waited for the connection and the hope of those three little words — “You’ve got mail!” Could life get any better? Of course it could! Dial up was, in a word or two, painfully slow!
But what I would not give for dial up today! I have been living without internet access in my home for two weeks. While service had been shaky for some time, a couple of weeks ago our internet provider experienced an equipment failure and has not been able to find a solution to restore service to my home or to the homes and businesses of over 1,200 customers. Over 1,200 homes and businesses without service for two weeks! Inconceivable!
It is beyond inconvenient. If not for my phone, my ability to retrieve email and other correspondence from home would be impossible. In an era of working remotely, working from my house is not currently an option. I have been relying on friends and part time office space to conduct business, but I know of several neighbors and neighboring businesses who do not have those options.
This is a major network provider who has, reputedly, lost interest in serving rural communities but is deeply imbedded in the rural area in which I live. According to the rumor mill, the company long neglected the infrastructure and is not interested in investing in new equipment to serve this community. We are left with few options and it is beyond frustrating. While the company may deny its lack of concern over its customer base, there is no denying the fact that it does not offer new service to anyone moving into the area. There is no denying the equipment is on last legs. And there is no denying the importance of free enterprise. Something needs to be done, but what?
The company has been around for a long, long time. It once considered as blue chip as IBM, as much a part of the fabric of America as Mom and apple pie. It has America in its name for Heaven’s sake! But it has let us down. And there is not much that can be done about it — aside from the whining, of course.
I love all that comes with having internet service – the faster the better. I no longer wonder about much of anything because as soon as a question comes to mind, I look it up! My husband’s two favorite questions while watching television are “How old is X? and “Is X still alive?” It certainly didn’t take long before the internet became ingrained into our lives, and in ways we don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about and that is not a good thing.
Not surprisingly, I recently found myself discussing the possibility of living without computers, and more specifically, without the internet. An acquaintance was trying to figure out a way to keep the internet out of the hands of his teenagers. He was thinking about replacing their smart phones with flip phones but realized that would prove fruitless! He talked about the amount of information that is shared and stolen and the probability that other countries with less than noble intentions are collecting data and would soon be all but cloning humans with the information they could steal from the world wide web.
I realize I forfeited a great deal of personal privacy a long, long time ago. Maybe it will show up in my “memories” on a social media sight – “On this day in 1998 we found out everything we needed!” It would be nice if someone would offer something a bit more helpful, like “enough already” or “are you sure you want to post that?”
Of course, right now, in my cyber-less living space, I’d be happy to post anything!
The world is indeed connected in cyber space. A year into the pandemic and the internet has become a literal lifeline. It is a major player in how we work, how we play, and how we interact. And we never turn it off! But maybe, we should.
The world demands access online, so it took an entire two weeks for me to see the plus side of being without service at home – less time in cyberspace and more time in the real world. Every now and then, it is good to unplug.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@ gmail.com.
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