e often talk about those “Where were you when?” days. The day the Challenger exploded. The day your child walked for the first time. Where you were on 9/11. Not many of us will probably remember where we were when Facebook, Instagram, and What’s App were down on Oct. 4 for several hours, but we likely should.
The Internet is the one invention that is universally operated by 99.9% of the people operating it knowing zero about how it works. At least some people know how to change the oil in their cars or can take a class at Home Depot on how to re-tile your bathroom. Unless you’re in information technology, I could tell you that Facebook suffered an outage due to their AAA and DNS records being removed from the BDG causing a wide-spread DOS and it would probably sound like I was speaking Klingon.
This should come, however, as a wakeup call for all of us. In just over a decade, the Internet and the companies that service us over the Internet have become as important to us as sliced bread and lamps. We are just now in the infancy of our relationship to the Internet and many of us don’t realize it. We come to expect that Facebook and Uber Eats and UMB Bank will be there for us at all times of the day and night. That’s remarkable considering five or 10 years ago these services were being run in hot closets with power strips looking like something out of Christmas Vacation. We’ve come a long way in making sure the Internet will be forever. And folks have bought in.
But if you really knew how fragile it is and how sending a single 1 or 0 across the globe in a microsecond is truly an unexpected miracle, believe me when I tell you – it can go away in a heartbeat.
For better or for worse (I’d argue worse), the internet and social media have seeped into every nook and cranny of society – as evidenced by all of the off-shoot communities on places like TikTok and Twitter. If you want to know about Renaissance Fair goers who dress up as Star Trek characters and pretend they’ve been sent back in time – there’s a place for you on the internet. If you want to plan to assault your dog catcher because she is an elected official and you can’t stand the way she catches dogs with milk bones – there’s a place for you, too.
There are only two generations that remember time before the internet. The Baby Boomers and Gen X. The Boomers remember the birth of radio, then television, then the World Wide Web. Us X’ers remember trying to download dirty pictures from a BBS and it taking four hours. (Allegedly.) I think X’ers are the only group fit enough if the internet suddenly went away.
The Boomers just don’t have time to learn something else or another way. They’re tired and they just want to see pictures of their grandkids and yell at the government. If you told them they had to go back to writing letters and mailing photographs, many of them would just say “nope.”
Us X’ers are uniquely equipped to go whichever way the world goes. We were born with rotary phones and video games you had to have an engineering degree to hook up to a television. Now those phones are in our pockets and play those same video games. But we are also the generation that were given a key to our house when we got out of school and told to “entertain yourself until mom and dad get home from work.” So we could easily go back to the old day. Heck, Gen X’ers have already brought back vinyl and collectable action figures. We could easily survive an Internet Cold Winter like it was us sitting in front of the television watching Captain Kangaroo.
Millennials, Gen Y and Z’ers? Y’all are screwed. You wouldn’t know how to handle looking at your phone and only getting the time. My generation had to call 844-1212 to get the time. That’s right, we had to call a PHONE NUMBER to get the time.
So – if this Facebook thing is a sign of the inevitable long-term outage of the internet, just know this – I’m good. Where were the youngsters when the internet went down? You’ll find them in the fetal position in the corner. I’ll be working on an adult coloring book listening to Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl.
(Follow Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is @TheFakeNed)