By: Louis De Gruy – Opinions Editor
Just two weeks ago, I was working hard in my dorm room to develop an open-source online method that would eventually solve world hunger: I was browsing Facebook, reading random articles on Wikipedia and watching “SpongeBob Squarepants” on Netflix. But, just as I gathered steam and hit my stride in my work, I received a small notification in the lower right of my screen: “You have been disconnected from UDsecure.”
As my windows went blank and my beloved porous friend froze in a terrifying epithet of fast food cuisine, I started to panic. Despite my best efforts to reconnect to both of our on-campus networks, I remained severed from the world for an agonizing several minutes. How could I continue my life-saving work without access to the Internet? How could I provide critical support to various causes without being able to give them a virtual thumbs up? What’s more, how could I be expected to efficiently use my smartphone without using mobile data? That stuff doesn’t grow on trees. It grows on bushes, I think. But they’re … hard to get? Yeah, that’s why there’s only a limited supply each month. But, I digress.
Suffering from a debilitating lack of answers, I began to accept my situation and take stock of my surroundings. For one thing, everything was dark. I waited patiently for the automatic brightness adjustment to take effect, but when it didn’t come, I began to question why everything in the world had suddenly stopped working. I mean, where were the backlights? Sitting alone in the darkness, I remembered that the factory default settings of my room included a pre-installed flashlight app; I just needed to locate the switch to activate it.
Flailing about wildly in the darkness, I stumbled over a pile of what I could only assume to have been rocks with leafy middles. After recovering, I was able to locate the switch and activate it. Blinking furiously in the sudden light, I was able to evaluate the source of injury in my room. My initial guess proved to be correct. The obstacle was, in fact, a pile of rocks with leafy middles. I tried to remember the name for this pile of clutter. A buck? A beeg? It didn’t matter, I just knew that I hated it and slowly backed away.
My cautious movement brought me to the door of my room. From the other side, I could hear sounds, confused screams of outrage. I didn’t know how to proceed. I had no idea what to expect beyond my door, but I also knew that remaining in my room could only provide me with sensory deprivation, an unacceptable way to spend my evening.
Slowly, I opened my door and crawled through to the outernet.
It was even brighter than my room had been. I cowered beneath the harsh glare of the hallway’s powerful flashlight apps. I chanced a look to my left and right and noticed several others making their forays into the outernet. I locked eyes with one. Reaching into my pocket for my phone to send him a text message, I discovered with dismay that I had left it in my room. Hesitant but with growing resolve, I rose to my knees. Then, with a growing musical crescendo that can only be compared to that of the opening scene of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” I rose to my feet, walked over to my neighbor and said, “Sup.”
(I hope it’s evident that none of this actually happened.) Too many times, I’ve found myself so entranced by my computer that I neglected spending time with my friends. Experiencing the network outage last week helped get me out of my room. I understand that computers and the Internet are expanding their roles in our lives, but we need to make sure that the real world doesn’t become an afterthought.