With The Flick of a Switch

I am completely and utterly dependent on my computer, and that terrifies me.

I am at the pointy end of my university semester –the plan was to submit my final essay this morning, and then be free to do other exciting things. Like the washing.

I had left the room briefly, but when I returned the internet connection was down. At this stage I wasn’t concerned, I just thought I needed to reconnect.

But when I looked at the icon, my mobile broadband was connected. I just didn’t have access to the internet.

To a writer, this seems like mere semantics: connected, access. What’s the difference? I turned my computer and modem on and off a few times, made myself a cuppa soup and tried not to panic.

Nothing was working. Well, to clarify, the computer was working but it wasn’t connected to the internet. It may as well have been a typewriter for all the good it was.

We live in a connected yet virtual age, and for the most past we don’t give much thought to the details of that connectivity. When everything is working it is part of the daily routine.

But when things stop working, we quickly realise how much of that connectivity is bogus.

Your money, your calendar, you contacts list, your debts… almost everything  – to some extent – is tied up to the internet. Lose that access and suddenly your life becomes a lot more difficult.

As a writer, most of my completed work and ideas are sitting on a single computer. Every now and then I think about backing it up onto an external hard drive, but even that’s located about six feet from where I am sitting and probably wouldn’t stand up too well to a fire.

Luckily for me, since I live in a connected world, I was able to flip open my iPad and start searching for solutions. First I tried a forum, but they were basically bagging out computer illiterates like myself. I considered calling my provider for help, but it didn’t end so well the last time I tried (the woman in India started sobbing and eventually asked me to hang up and call back so I would go through to another operator).

So I went back to basics. I found the box my modem came in. I had scratched ‘Do Not Throw Out’ on it, in case I tossed it out in a frenzy of cleaning (it happens).

Inside the book, where I was similarly scrawled all the seemingly pertinent details, it asked under ‘troubleshooting’ – have you got enough credit.

Ahhh.

Five minutes and a hundred bucks later I was online again. Connected and with access.

But it has made me think about the tenuous state I exist in; where a blackout, theft or virus can eradicate not only my writing but also many links to my citizenry.

We have insurance to protect us if we get sick, crash the car or if the house burns down. What sort of protection do we have if we lose our access to the internet? And by that I don’t mean a fifteen minute blind panic because I hadn’t paid a bill, I mean the larger issue of our dependence on technology to control many aspects of our lives. With so many pushes to get us online (internet banking, shopping, trade sharing) how do we protect ourselves in a world, which – with the flick of a switch – ceases to exist?