It’s 8:45 here in New York, and the sun just slipped down into the Hudson River, leaving the sky the color of a fresh bruise.
I spent the whole day offline, which is a pretty big deal.
As much as I talk about the importance of developing a diversified income stream, the truth is that most of my work–no, all of it–involves the Internet in some way. There’s the obvious: Matador work–the writing, the editing, the U–which is all online. The work for all my private editing and translation clients occurs via Internet, too. I don’t even know where half of them live. Even when I’m working on an article for a print magazine, or when I worked on the Fodor’s guide, or when I’m researching, the Internet is a critical resource.
So what did I do with my day offline? I got together with a few friends who also make their livings online. On our way to grab a coffee at Chelsea Market, we walked past the Apple store, where a line of customers was forming, presumably to buy iPads. “Like I need one more thing to keep me online,” said one friend.
And just like that, the thought occurred to me: “What if the Internet crashed today?”
For a few minutes–okay, for an hour or so–the question had me in a state of quiet panic. What would I do if my sources of income just dried up? Though I’ve got money coming in from different sources, I’ve depended solely upon the Internet to find those sources, to maintain the relationships, to transact all of the work.
The shape of my days would look entirely different. The number and nature of many relationships would probably change, too. There are things I’d miss–the ability to have a Skype video call with my mom so she can see her granddaughter growing between visits; the quick and easy connections with friends around the world who I can’t see in person; and yes, most of my work–but the idea of not sitting in front of a computer all day every day was, after that initial hour of panic, a really appealing idea.
I don’t think I’d ever go back to an office–not unless I was exceptionally desperate. Like Great Depression desperate. But the possibility of crafting something entirely new and far away from a screen was actually exciting. And the possibility of crafting something entirely new and far away from a screen with people I’ve met online was even more exciting… like a retreat center in the middle of Mexico. Or something.
I’m not hoping the Internet will crash or anything, but think about all that you’ve built online, and all that we’ve built through our collective networking. We’re the architects of an extraordinary community. And the idea that that could go offline and become something sustainable? Well, if the Internet crashes, I’ll view it as a tremendous opportunity.