How do you behave when your internet is down?

Since the pandemic went berserk in March (at least in India) and the lockdowns ensued (in many parts of the world), we have all come to depend on the inevitability of the internet a lot more. There is no other way to get things done, but for the internet.

Even otherwise decidedly-offline activities like schooling have forcibly turned completely online. Thankfully, we had the internet to use an alternative method, however limiting it is, compared to older, offline modes.

If the internet goes down now, when we are so incredibly dependent on it, how would you feel? Life comes to a stand-still? Most probably. But what would you really do when the internet is down? How would you behave?

Two ads from a period just before the pandemic hit us indicate the creative expressions from an advertising/marketing point of view. Sadly, both ads, from 2 different parts of the world, seem to indicate, to comic effect of course, that we will go nuts without internet!

The first one, in December 2019, is from Argentina, by Benedictino, a flavored water from the Coca-Cola company. The agency is Hello, Argentina.

The second one, from January 2020, is from American Airlines, made by Streetlight Film & Media. This one is funny, of course – that influencer character was my favorite… she has some great lines in the script 🙂

So, is this what we become, when we do not have internet? That’s a sad representation of our potential, even within the confines of advertising exaggeration, despite them predating the pandemic!

There needs to be alternate narratives about our dependence on the internet, despite it being so life-alteringly important – ones that do not involve making us look like addicts and zombies with the lack of it.

We have had enough narratives about what we can do more with internet and very, very less about how we behave when it snaps out because we completely take its availability for granted.

I’m fairly sure that we now take being-connected (or uninterrupted internet) for granted. But like electricity, we probably also take for granted that the internet going down would only be a temporary problem, and we could get it back soon.

When the internet is down, all kinds of collaboration with the outside world comes to a stand-still because, with the pandemic, and our working from home, almost all kinds of contacts with the outside world is based on the internet being available. Thankfully, the cellular network would still work when the internet is down, so we can stop the video calls and make a normal mobile call like old times 🙂

But, the internet going down need not mean we stop thinking or doing something productive. I’m sure advertising and marketing could envisage interesting and positive ways our species could make use of the downtime, without only resorting to mocking that situation. This is an opportunity for brands too, to look at our better side.

In this context, I highly recommend the recent book Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan.

It’s a near-future science fiction novel, with the scenario being that an anonymous cyberterrorism act switched off the world’s internet! It’s a really interesting plot since it literally helps us understand how badly dependent we all are on the internet for every little thing in our lives. Interestingly, the book uses a ‘before’ and ‘after’ structure, with the former leading up to the forces and situation that led to the latter. In the ‘before’ there’s also a foreshadowing of this future scenario where one particular part of Bristol city is off internet because a few people jam all kinds of internet in that area alone.

The novel also features a device called ‘Spex’ – a smartglass that is ubiquitous… as common as smartphones are, now! I had written about the impact of such a scenario just 2 days ago, incidentally.

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