Seven ways to survive life without the internet
By Hazel Parry Jan 24, 2007, 7:45 GMT
Hong Kong - The devastation caused to internet lines by the Taiwan earthquake shortly before the New Year left millions of people across Asia cut off from e-mail and websites for days. Even now, connections across the region are sluggish.
In a world where high-speed connections have been taken for granted, the event has forced us to face up to the reality of what life without the internet would be like and in many cases exposed people's inability to cope.
It is hard to imagine we ever lived without Google searches, e-bay auctions, online shopping and Skype - but in reality, it is only a matter of a few years since we somehow managed to struggle from one day to the next without ever logging on.
In those seemingly far-off days, things were still bought and sold, families were still fed, public transport still worked, businesses still made profits and social events were still successfully organised and executed - all without the internet. It's just that we had to do things differently.
Charles Mok, head of the Hong Kong Internet Society, said the internet disruption caused by the earthquake should serve as a 'wake-up call.'
'There are people who should think about whether they can plan their life in a different way,' he said.
'If for some reason they can't use the internet for a period of time and they just sit there complaining, maybe there are other things they should think about doing.
'This earthquake ought to make them realise there are other things to do in life than going on the internet. They should really find a better balance. Just like other things in life, at some point you might unexpectedly lose it - and you really have to cope with it.'
Experts say there is no knowing when it will happen again. So to help prepare for the next time Asia is cut off from the outside world by a natural disaster that severs our internet connections, here are seven things you can do to remain sane when the computers are down.
1: Pick up a phone. Put a voice to the names of business contacts you have known for years but never met or spoken to by phoning instead of e-mailing. Start by wishing them a Happy New Year to break the ice. Alternatively arrange a meeting over coffee. Hearing a voice or seeing a face is by far the better way to build confidence and trust which can only benefit your business or career.
2: Use your legs. The world of instant messaging and e-mail has created workplaces in which no-one speaks to each other where orders, reports, requests are sent via the internet. This may save you time but the consequences can also be bad for your health. Try instead using your legs, get up from your chair, take a walk around the office and talk to your colleagues. In addition to building relationships, both social and work, those extra steps and rest periods away from your desk will burn calories, rest tired eyes and stretch muscles and avoid strain which in the long term can result in bad backs, eye strain and repetitive strain injuries
3: Go to the library. An online search may be fast and effortless, but there is nothing like a reference library to make you really appreciate the world of knowledge. Surround yourself in books and get a taste of what it was like to engross yourself in research before the internet. The process is far more challenging and rewarding.
4: Write a letter. If you want to say something and can't do it in person, there is no better way than a letter. A good letter will be kept for years. Psychologist Dr Lisa Matthewman, of the University of Westminster in the UK, says many people find it easier to express their emotions on paper and despite being considered old fashioned, this form of communication is more appreciated by the person on the receiving end. 'It is a very warm gesture and women in particular appreciate them,' she said.
5: Rediscover the art of conversation. Use the internet-free time and time away from chat rooms and game sites to talk and play with your children, or even just to have a family meal together. Resurrect old board games, go to the movie, go for a walk, or rediscover your old CD collection and enjoy some quality time with your family.
6: Go shopping. With internet shopping becoming more popular there may come a day when it's not the done thing to go to the mall. Make the most of window shopping rather than browsing, go try on clothes, pick up, flick through and feel the weight of a book before buying, handle real cash or simple wander around one of the wet markets and take in the sights, sounds and smells. One day it may be all a thing of the past. Take the Taiwan 'technological tsunami' as a warning and savour the experience now.
7: Enjoy the freedom. It is a well known fact most of us are slaves to the internet. A survey last year commissioned by Hewlett Packard claimed office workers spent more time - an average of 4 hours a day - talking to friends online and messaging than they did actually working. Researchers found workers showed a complete lack of discipline in handling e-mails, unable to resist the temptation to answer immediately - even thinking it was acceptable to answer during meetings or conferences - with the effect that they were having to constantly change direction and as a result their brain slowed down.
Health writer Jane Alexander, author of The Overload Solution says the consequence is a constant state of readiness to react to emails causing what she terms 'overload' - something which happens when you have too many demands pressing on you at the same time. It also means work pressures can continue even at home. So use the current internet slowdown as an excuse to free yourselves from the computer at least for a few days, and enjoy the extra time on your hands.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur