I finally got online this morning after many hours of connection problems during which I contemplated how reliant I have become on the Internet. My work depends on it. Forget snow days, where the weather is too awful for kids to get to school. Forget blackout days, where buildings have to close because they have no heat or electricity or (as happens in Budapest) a relic from the war in the shape of an unexploded bomb is found and the area is evacuated.
No, these days, the one thing that will have people in offices around the world twiddling their thumbs is not having Internet connection. Oops - my Internet is down therefore I can't work. I can't check what is happening (because I have no Internet). Do I wait and see if it comes back or do I simply take a day's leave and go visit a museum or alphabetise my spice rack?
This morning I texted a few people to see if they were online. They were, but they had different service providers so that didn't help me much. What to do? I needed to let my colleagues know that I'd be offline but I couldn't access the shared Google calendar. I thought about posting on Facebook to see if anyone else in Budapest was having similar problems but that would mean upping sticks and going to the nearest Internet café. I figured I could perhaps go out for a coffee, download my mail, check what work had come in and then make a more informed decision about my day.
If I didn't do that, my world would simply see that I was offline. For some it would be an inconvenience not having me on Skype. For others, waiting for a response to an email, my absence might be a little irritating. But how many of them would think 'no Internet connection'? Are we at that stage yet where every prolonged bout of virtual absence is put down to a lack of connectivity because nothing else, not sickness, or personal strife, or a local uprising could possible explain it? Not yet, perhaps, but the day might not be too far off.
Then it came back... suddenly. And life as I know it could continue. But there's been a subtle change. This dependency of mine has surfaced, has been recognised, and now has to be mitigated somehow. I need to have a body of work I can do offline and figure out different ways to connect with people and colleagues when I can't get online. I need to wean myself off this addiction and regulate my online hours so that I'm not creating an expectation that if I'm alive and breathing and awake, I'm also online.