Does WIFI connect people?

Over the past three weeks I have been learning what life is like without WIFI, through no choice of my own I might add. I have been spending my days with my two closest friends in our new flat in Belfast. We had been excited to move in, however as nice and comfortable as the flat is, our friends still will not visit for long because of one overwhelming detail, no WIFI. There have been several phone calls made to Virgin Media and several mix ups, mistakes and confusing conversations that have happened in the past weeks to try and put the problem right. It can be argued that we are a very laid-back bunch and the problem could have been sorted sooner. However here we are, still no sign of the WIFI being sorted.

As much as I would like to consider myself as one of the very few young people today who is not completely dependent on the internet and social media I cannot help but notice, especially over the past weeks, how much it controls so much of what I do and how much it surrounds me in my day to day life. Being twenty-one in this day and age means that a lot of our news and gossip comes via group chat messages on WhatsApp. This means we felt very in the dark about things going on the outside of our flat and relied on people visiting to gather any juicy information we were missing out on. As students all on the minimum wage at our part time jobs it’s worth mentioning that we couldn’t afford to keep buying data from O2, who charge ten pounds for the smallest amount of data and get away with it because of desperate people, like ourselves. I can’t help but think, what did people used to do?

How we survived
Boredom soon set in when we couldn’t scroll through Instagram or view Snapchats or even watch a movie together because we had no television and, wait for it, no Netflix. We were forced to entertain ourselves. One major lesson I have learned over the past few weeks is how fun it can be to cook a meal with your friends and sit down to enjoy it while having an actual face to face conversation. I Felt like I was learning things I never knew about these girls I have known for several years. However, another lesson I have learned is how easy it is to overeat when there is nothing else to do… I even had a friend turn to me and say, in a very serious tone,
‘I really don’t know what I’m going to do when I finish this yogurt’ .

We decided we would not let it get the best of us, we convinced ourselves we could be entertained without any form of internet. We ventured outdoors. For anyone out there who ever finds themselves without WIFI for long periods of time I really recomCM8mend the cinema. I know it’s not the cheapest form of entertainment for fellow students but even going one night a week was a great reason for us to leave the house and do an activity together. We even started doing home workouts together, as we currently can’t afford the gym membership, which made us feel really productive and bonded us together even more. A morning walk to buy a coffee became something to really look forward to instead of it being the chore it used to be, having to leave the house. One major thing we all noticed was how out of place we felt when standing waiting in places and not having a phone to scroll through. We noticed everywhere we looked people were staring at screens or had earphones in. The overall experience has left me pondering one big question, does WIFI bring people together, or keep us apart?

Reasons I feel we need WIFI
1- The internet is an amazing invention that enables us to instantly contact a whole group of people through one easy click.
2- We can see News from around the world at any time and because of this young people are much more involved in what is happening in the world.
3- If used correctly, the internet can really be educational. For example any random question that pops into my head during the day I can google it and find the answer instantly, this saves a lot of arguments with my brothers during debates.
4- I have stayed in touch with friends from my school who have moved countries or drifted from me in real life and I can see what everyone is up to.
5- The world, in my opinion, is much more open to different cultures and knowledgeable about them because of the internet and social influencers.
6- It’s hard to feel lonely when the whole world is at your fingertips

Reasons I feel we don’t need WIFI
1- I feel like I spend so much of my day staring at screens and this feels very unnatural to me and has affected my eye sight and attention span.
2- When being on your phone takes you out of the present moment you are in with the people really standing in front of you it is hard to argue that we are more connected because of it.
3- Social media sights can turn into popularity contests very easily when young people start competing for likes and basing how they see themselves by the number of likes their selfie got.
4-There is an evil side to the online world that opens young people up to risk and danger and online bullying.
5- While not having any form of WIFI, data or phone usage I noticed how much it had taken over my life.

So basically, overall my experience has taught me that as much of a hassle as it was and as bored as I felt at times, I need to learn to be less dependent on WIFI. I now know I can live without it, it is possible, but maybe I just don’t want to.

Ever O’Neill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – emeroneill29 ; and Facebook Emer O’Neill