When we came home on Wednesday evening two weeks ago, we noticed that the internet wasn’t working. Julie reset the router, and it didn’t work. Not that I didn’t trust her, but I also reset the router, and it still didn’t work. We shrugged, then went out to play tennis in hopes that it would be back on when we got home.
It did not, and reality set in.
I turned wifi off on my phone and used data to check Comcast’s website for outages with none reported. I checked Twitter and didn’t find much more. I checked my cable modem, and I checked my router, and they were all fine. I even checked with my neighbor to see if her internet was out (it was not). We were truly disconnected.
I exaggerate. Of course, I still had internet at the office, and as I mentioned early, I also had data on my phone, so I used that sparingly to stay connected, and it actually wasn’t been as impactful as I thought it would be. When I think about how I spend my free time, I immediately jump to online-only activities like watching streaming TV or movies, playing online video games, and browsing the web. On a day-to-day basis, however, it wasn’t been too disruptive.
It helps that I had a lot of reading to do. Our book club meeting was coming up on Sunday, and I wasn’t very far through the book. I also was responsible for leading the discussion, so I couldn’t afford to fake the rest of it.
I first really noticed it on Thursday morning when I started making breakfast. Before I even start to heat the oatmeal water, I turn on a podcast or YouTube series to listen to in the background, but on that day, I immediately realized that I couldn’t stream anything. Instead, I was stuck going through my morning routine in silence. I thought it might be refreshing, though I put away dishes and made sandwiches without noticing the time any more or less than usual.
When I’m at home, I use my computer for specific activities, so depending on whether I’m playing tennis or writing code, my evening involves different amounts of computer usage. When we lost internet, I didn’t use my computer at all, but it didn’t feel odd since I have just been working around it.
However, I also noticed that I wasn’t using my iPad at all since our internet went out, and that has been odd. When I’m at home, I often have my iPad with me to listen to something or just to check my email or find something on the internet. I always considered myself a little more old school in preferring my laptop to my tablet, but I guess that it silently has become my primary device.
And it’s surprisingly unimportant without internet. As a consumption device, my iPad depends on getting content from the internet. With no way to access Spotify or my email, I don’t have a reason to use it.
Instead, I used my phone a lot more. I haven’t been using it for anything out of the ordinary, but I have been hunting around for my phone more often than I usually do.
I didn’t miss the internet for primary activities: I miss it for the gaps in life to fill dead air or to check in on the world while I’m waiting for something. We often talk about how phones, apps, and social media are making us addicted to the internet. There’s been a strong effort to hold companies like Facebook or Apple accountable for designing for addiction, but I’m not sure it’s any one company’s fault: I think it’s everyone’s fault because even if YouTube didn’t suggest another video to me, I would find a new podcast to listen to instead. If I’m not checking reddit for something new, I’ll check my email instead. It’s only when it all goes away that I noticed the gaps again.
I got our the first Comcast appointment on Saturday, and the technician confirmed that we weren’t getting any signal. He went under our unit to get access to the cable box, but the door was locked, and since maintenance doesn’t work weekends, he couldn’t get in.
I got our second Comcast appointment on the following Tuesday, and the technician managed to get a key. When we looked the cable box, he instantly saw that our line had been disconnected: when another technician (maybe from Comcast, maybe someone else) was doing maintenance, they unplugged us and never reconnected it. He tested the lines, which all worked fine, and plugged us back in.
And with that, we rejoined the connected world.