21st Century Drug of Choice
There is an interesting world wide phenomena today. A global economy based on a legal drug of choice, and it is mostly predominantly found in America where the majority of the population buy, sell, indulge, research, and create this drug. No one is immune from it, except for certain rural communities in the far North.
The drug? The Internet and its plethora of delivery systems for mood-altering, pleasure enhancing effects.
Deprive Americans of their access to the Internet for more than a minute and you can see the same symptoms common to druggies undergoing withdrawal. Well, maybe not the hallucinations. But the irrational temper tantrums and panic attacks, certainly. No, I’m not belittling the terrible conditions of drug addicts, nor am I saying the Internet is dangerous and should be banned. I’m merely observing an interesting phenomena.
Last weekend, rainy weather killed our Internet connection. Suddenly, instead of being able to keep up with friends across the country, check in on the latest news and fashion, research material for my next novel, or even catch another episode of CSI:NewYork on Netflix, we found ourselves with nothing to do.
Oh, the horrors of it! Instead of being filled with busyness and nonstop activity, our day yawned with empty hours, isolated from human contact. Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. We had plenty to keep us busy and entertained. Internet, or the lack thereof, did not deprive us of our Kindles, the tons of paper books we have on our bookshelves, a telephone call to our kids or friends, or the simple pleasure of watching the rain fall outside.
But it did point out something intriguing. When did we as a nation stop interacting with reality? When did our lives become defined by an invisible, omniscient force controlled by individuals whose main goal is the bottom line? What does it say about the future of America should anything serious and permanent happen to the Internet?
Science fiction writers have explored that particular scenario in various ways and all of them are sobering. Sudden loss of the Internet creates world wide havoc, economic collapse, the end of business as we know it (even fast food restaurants can’t sell with out the Internet), and complete panic as our civilization grinds to a halt. People would die by the thousands.
I’m not proposing we eliminate the Internet. I’m as dependent on it as anyone else. I do think, though, if we want to survive as a civilization we ought to take a page out of those simpler communities and learn how to do some things without being dependent on something we have no control over.