It seems Egypt is having a torrid time of late. Not only has it been faced with killer sharks, riots, a soon-to-be usurped government and a national monument missing a nose, but its citizens have also had to face an entire week without the Internet, an issue which no doubt has led to thousands of Egyptians having to actually use their imagination in order to masturbate - a harrowing thought that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of most.
Although this all seems a long way from home to those of us living free of dictatorships, it’s not impossible that we too could soon find ourselves in a similar situation. According to recent articles in the national press, there is a real risk that the Internet is soon going to implode under the weight of all the information it holds. I’m a little fuzzy on the science, but basically I think it’s full up - no more room at the cyber-inn. In short, angry YouTube commenters, Mafia Wars addicts and whoever uploaded all those Rickrolls pretty much fucked it up for everyone.
As a society we rely on the internet for almost everything, be it communication, shopping, work, or finding videos of cats being forced to play the piano. If we lost all of this; every free mp3, every Google page, every piece of disgusting yet somehow compelling niche porn out there, would we be able to cope as we did before, or does the Internet have such a hold on us now that we wouldn’t know how to survive without asking Google for help?
The following is a prediction based on real thoughts that happened inside my head.
Disappointingly, none of the real mail will contain offers of large amounts of money from Nigerian royalty or tips on how to increase penis size.
0600hrs, ‘zero hour’ – The Internet goes down, suddenly, without any warning, like an over-eager date. Lots of computers make annoyingly upbeat error sounds and all are forced offline. A new record for the most people to simultaneously call an inanimate object a fucker is set.
At first there will be a stunned silence, followed by every computer in the world being turned off and then back on again by cocksure IT technicians. Soon people will begin to panic, some lamenting the half-written tweet they were about to send, others wondering how they’re going to procrastinate without access to Facebook. Eventually someone in the government will be forced to break the news and Cameron will make an address to the nation. “Ladies and gentlemen,” it will begin, “the Internet is no more…also I closed all the libraries, fucked up the NHS and made a speech which bordered on being right-wing, but let’s focus on the Internet for now.” Confused citizens will find themselves checking their letter boxes in an attempt to replace the void left by a lack of email. Disappointingly, none of the real mail will contain offers of large amounts of money from Nigerian royalty or tips on how to increase penis size. In some offices where pens are a thing of the past, emails will be typed in word documents and computers will be carried from room to room in order to relay the messages. In the days to come many people will be found dead in their rooms, staring at download bars stuck at 99%, everyone who’s ever bought shares in anything computer related will sell them causing the stock market to crash and Mark Zuckerberg will really wish he’d taken media studies.
1 Day After Shutdown
In a bid to save money the government will shut down lots of unnecessary task forces and public services. There’s also a good chance they’ll bomb a small country in order to steal their oil and detract attention from the fact we’re all doomed and bored, although without the aid of computers their aim will be way off and Stockton-on-Tees will be accidentally eradicated.
All computer intelligence agencies will cease to exist. Including the agency who, according to tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists, have spent the last several years spying on our Facebook accounts, presumably on the off chance someone might be caught declaring themselves to be in a ‘complicated relationship’ with the ideals of the western world, or stock-piling large amounts of bleach in one of their Farmville barns. These individuals will be mostly relieved. One officer will be heard to say “That was the most excruciatingly pointless four years of my life. Unless insufferably boring status updates are a threat to national security then there’s dick all happening on Facebook.” When asked how he felt about his retirement, another officer will be seen giving a thumbs-up as if to indicate he liked the idea. He won’t elaborate however.
NB: In the long run, despite the Internet apparently being a valuable tool in the surveillance of terrorism, its unexpected death will ironically cause a reduction in extremist action. As forum moderators, online gaming enthusiasts and fan-fiction authors all crawl out of their parents’ basements and enter the real world, the government will report a sharp dip in attempted domestic attacks. One would-be suicide bomber will be quoted as saying, ‘look at these people. This is what virgins are really like. I don’t want to spend eternity with 72 of these dicks. Only the boys have boobs. Plus, what on earth would we talk about?’
2 Days After Shutdown
After two days the most self-obsessed of the world’s bloggers will be gripped by an uncontrollable urge to share things no-one cares about with lots of people they don’t know. Worst hit are the Sex and The City inspired, pseudo-feminist, burn-your-bra-to-show-off-your-tits, relationship-diary bloggers. They will be found haunting local bars, probably drinking cocktails, and looking for loners to tell all about the date had last Saturday with someone they refer to only as ‘boy X’. Hopefully someone will have to heart to tell them that there is a good reason that they are alone and it correlates with that horrible thing that happens when they open their mouths. Those who write for obscure sci-fi fan forums or about immersive role-playing games will also be found wandering the streets looking for like-minded people to talk to. All will eventually gather in Games Workshops around the country, forming small armies that will one day take over the world.
As forum moderators, online gaming enthusiasts and fan-fiction authors all crawl out of their parents’ basements and enter the real world, the government will report a sharp dip in attempted domestic attacks.
6 Weeks After Shutdown
As chat rooms become a thing of the past some people will start to meet in public locations, often in large groups, holding conversations in person, with their mouths. Emoticons will be replaced with subtle changes of facial expression accompanied by a variation in the pitch and/or tone of the words delivered. People used to online interaction will most likely find communicating in person exhausting. There aren’t nearly enough abbreviations in spoken English to suffice and, quite frankly, many are out of practice. Teenagers will begin to invent a new language, consisting mostly of clicking sounds, grunts and stabbing motions. Some, desperate to once again exercise the brevity the Internet once offered, will attempt to develop an analogue Twitter by constantly carrying Post-it notes on which they will write short, timely messages that they stick on bus seats and toilet cubicles, or occasionally on a specific recipient. Noticing a decline in conversational standards, the government will immediately issue a common sense in language edict, making it perfectly legal for any citizen to physically punish someone for using internet speak IRL (in real life). For instance ‘LOLs’ may be reprimanded by a hard slap to the face. A ‘ROFL’ on the other hand can only really be rectified by a swift punch to the genitals. ‘ROFLCOPTORS’ will be punishable by death.
People will also find new ways to discover information. If Cameron is kind enough to leave some libraries behind then people may attend them in order to read computer print outs of information, commonly know as books. Some of these books will be educational. Others will be inspiring stories full of beautiful prose and realistic characters whose needs and wants are clear to the reader, thus making their journey all the more relatable. Others will be written by Dan Brown.
Three Months After Shutdown
Internet withdrawal symptoms will begin to make some members of society irrational and dangerous. The RSPCA will receive reports of people starting underground LOLCat theatres in order to replace the formerly popular memes once enjoyed by the unimaginative and lonely. Cats will be snatched from streets all over the country and forced to perform in all sorts of unorthodox situations whilst audiences shout improvised captions at the frightened felines. Other internet sensations will also take on a terrifyingly real dimension. Hollywood movie star Keanu Reeves will report being followed by large numbers of strangers offering him sandwiches and asking him if he maybe wouldn’t mind looking just a little bit sad. Rick Astley will also appear unexpectedly at several high-profile events and burst into song.
Four Months After Shut Down
After four months a new and specific type of criminal will emerge in society. The first recorded IRC (internet replacement crime) is logged when a young woman arrives home to find a guy she went to school with (but never really spoke to) in her house, angrily masturbating whilst looking at pictures of her and her friends on a post-A level holiday in Marbella. He is diagnosed with ‘Facebook Delusional Disorder’ and sent to a secure facility where he spends the next four years writing nonsense on (padded) walls. Other early instances of IRC include uninvited ‘poking’ and forcing people one vaguely knows to look at photos of one’s baby.
One Year After Shutdown
Someone will realise the plug had come out. That’s all it was, the Internet wasn’t full at all. We all go back home and continue ignoring each other at will. It’s lovely.
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