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Reflecting on Life Before the Digital Era: Contemplating the Impact of an Internet Outage

It’s challenging to envision reverting to a world devoid of the internet. Whether we embrace it or not, we’ve unleashed the digital Pandora’s box, and there’s no turning back.

The severe storm on April 3 that disrupted internet connectivity in various parts of Berkshire County, affecting establishments like The Eagle and Greylock Federal Credit Union, where customers encountered difficulties accessing their accounts, offered a glimpse of a more straightforward era. The online coverage of the incident even suggested that residents were “living like the ‘90s.”

During the 1990s, though I was quite young and have limited recollections of that time, I can empathize with the nostalgia associated with the pre-internet epoch. In reality, during my early 2000s residency in Windsor, we continued to operate as if stuck in the 1990s, especially concerning internet services. As extensively detailed in The Eagle, Windsor lagged behind in technological advancements compared to more densely populated areas such as Pittsfield.

Upon relocating to Windsor in 2004 with my family, we relied on dial-up internet until 2011 when we upgraded to Hughesnet. Despite branding itself as high-speed internet, Hughesnet still fell far short of the service quality I now enjoy in Pittsfield. Internet outages for extended periods or frustratingly slow speeds impeding video loading were routine occurrences. To watch lengthy YouTube videos, it was advisable to pause and buffer or opt for downloading.

Despite its unreliability, I never felt deprived during internet downtime. We simply engaged in alternative activities like outdoor exploration, reading, or offline gaming. Our family habitually perused the print version of The Berkshire Eagle daily, with me occasionally devouring it from cover to cover.

Life sans internet appeared more fulfilling, serene, and overall happier. Part of this sentiment stems from the era coinciding with my transition to adulthood, intertwining this technology with my grown-up responsibilities. However, a significant portion can be attributed to the addictive nature of social media and the toll exacted by apps engineered to perpetuate endless scrolling through their algorithms. True tranquility seems attainable only by disconnecting from the ceaseless content stream.

While I don’t rue my predominantly offline upbringing, I often felt excluded observing friends in more urbanized locales or less secluded parts of Windsor enjoying high-speed internet ahead of us. Even after our move in 2013, it took four more years for me to acquire my initial smartphone, aligning me with peers wielding the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. Remarkably, during my fall 2014 orientation at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, I stood out as the sole student with a flip phone.

Undoubtedly, the internet has streamlined various sectors and operations. Anyone who experienced the challenges at The Eagle on April 3, myself included, can attest that producing a newspaper offline poses significant hurdles.

Nonetheless, there exists a tipping point where our online realms become overwhelming. Not everything online merits our attention. Not all content is enlightening or thought-provoking. Some online material lacks credibility altogether. We all require intervals to power down, relish the company of those around us, and grant our minds respite.

Ironically, my Windsor abode provided an idyllic setting for such respites, nestled amidst a forest devoid of the distractions prevalent in a city like Pittsfield. Occasionally, I yearn for those uncomplicated days preceding the dominance of Facebook and Instagram, where my siblings and I spent entire days searching for frogs, engaging in playful pursuits, or basking under the sun’s warmth.