I spend a lot of my time thinking about the Internet and Internet addiction. Hell, I even wrote a serialized novella about it -- which I've adapted into a full length novel, lubed and ready to be inserted into commerce. (It's filled with great metaphors just like that too.) But recently, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and go offline for a week. That's right. One week with no personal email, social media or Internet use of any kind.
Could I do it? Yes I could, and what I learned may surprise you. Out there beyond the computer screen there was a whole world of wonders I'd been neglecting. Magical things and special people. Interpersonal relationships that had gone neglected due to the deceptive ease and covert evil of the Internet. My week of electronic liberation showed me a better, brighter world I know I will never leave.
The Internet has changed the world, and perhaps in no way more startling and relevant to Cracked writers and readers than in its revolution of pornography. There's a whole world out there of headshakingly, awful, diverse and God-forsaken smut with varying degrees of quality. And it's all free. Well, not all of it, but I shudder to think what people are paying for that they can't find being given away for nothing. It's no surprise that the absence of online porn was my first stumbling block on the road to breaking my Internet addiction.
But here's the thing. Did you know that you can get porn even without the Internet? It's true. Although I can't imagine why, there are still magazines and DVDs of people doing things to each other while not wearing clothes, sometimes with the assistance of various devices. You can even buy some of these magazines at newsstands, stationery stores and, for some reason, airports. Don't be fooled by the brown paper bag they sometimes come in. Underneath? Boobies! No joke.
Don't worry. This isn't the sexy part.
Another thing about these magazines. Don't make the same mistake I did. They don't work like a flip book. They're just filed with stationary dirty pics of different naked people. Flipping the pages fast at the corners won't animate it.
For that, you need to buy a DVD. No, I didn't just misspell "download." A DVD is an actual disc like a compact disc. Oh, um, how can I explain? Like a really flat doughnut that doesn't taste good, but shows you images of people having sex?
Anyway, it's all still out there! And to think of all the anti-social time I spent alone in a darkened room, hunched over a keyboard when I could have been out and part of the community, buying unspeakable smut from lovely, recent immigrants in brightly lit Times Square stores.
And the best part is, no matter how filthy your purchase, he'll still call you "sir."
So a couple of days into my journey, I realized I had no idea what was going on in the world. Was Obama the devil? Was Sarah Palin tellin' it like it is? Had Ron Paul smiled for a photo looking like he'd accidentally swallowed a small, but well-clawed animal that was slowly scratching back up his esophagus? Without CNN.com and Foxnews.com, I just had no idea.
But wouldn't you know it? It was my local newsstand that came to the rescue again. There are these things I'd remembered from my youth called newspapers. They have all sorts of information about foreign and domestic affairs and best of all, instead of being free, a well-respected one like the New York Times costs two bucks and leaves black crap all over your fingers! It's like getting all the knowledge of slightly less perfunctory reporting with the sexy sensation of working in a coal mine. Goodbye free easy online access, hello expensive cumbersome mess! That's what I say.
And that's not all. It has a crossword puzzle. Have you seen these things? They're amazing. And if you devote hours and hours of your life to them, you might be able to solve one harder than the novice ones they run on Monday. Check it out!
Now who's the dummy spending 14 dollars a week for dirty fingers? Not me. I knew 17 across, "Where sad trash collectors get together?" was "In the dumps." Yeah, Internet Shminternet. This rules.
Typically, I start the day checking my smart phone for the weather. Do I wear my sexy form-fitting turtleneck or is this a warmer day, more appropriate for my ab and ass showcasing mini-jean shorts? The Internet lets me know. And I'll admit, without it, I was pretty lost.
Boy was I embarrassed that day. I thought it was gonna be like 80 degrees!
I mean, I put my hand out the window and all that stuff, but how to know what the weather will be like later? That's when I remembered that that rectangular thing on my entertainment center did something besides make my computer monitor bigger and DVR things. It was a television! And T.V. had live morning shows hosted by bland middle-aged men and insanely happy middle-aged women who looked like they were probably 3rd runner up for Miss Oklahoma in the early '90s. But the thing is, these shows also had weathermen. It seemed like a great job. They stood in front of a green screen, pointed at a map and told you what to expect. Maybe I could be a weatherman?
But probably not.
In any event, not only did morning news shows help me dress appropriately for the day, I also learned important things like whether Nick Lache is ready for a comeback and how to burn tummy fat with easy-to-do-around-the-house exercises!
My sixth full day without the Internet presented a surprising challenge: the loss of online banking. I remember setting up a checking account with my dad when I was 16. I sat at one of those desks that people who aren't tellers sit at, and filled out some paperwork. And with that exception, just about every other time I went to a bank it was because that's where the ATMs were. I suppose the rest of the bank still exists for people who don't understand ATMs or for folks doing grown up stuff like signing mortgage papers or divesting IRAs or other things I don't understand. But for me, finances just came down to ATMs and online banking. The best thing about them is that you don't have to talk to anyone and no one has to see how little money you have in your account.
So the other night, I was trying to order a pizza but I had no cash. My credit card was maxed out. I needed to transfer the 18.98 I had in savings over to checking, so I opened up my laptop, and then I remembered I'd promised myself I'd stay offline. What to do? What to do? There was no food in the house, and I was hungry and broke. Also, ATMs don't let you take out less than 20 bucks.
Because they're dirty, dirty whores.
And then I remembered: my next door neighbor was rich and probably had lots of food! Without any assistance from the Internet, I cleverly slipped into his home with a rock through the sliding glass door on his deck. And then, just as cleverly, I beat him to death with that very same rock! I know. Two birds. One stone. Literally. (If a glass door and 55-year-old hedge fund manager were both literally birds.) And I was right. His fridge was well-stocked with various meats and fancy cheeses. I made several sandwiches and washed it down with a helping of fancy microbrews I'd never heard of before.
Is "homicidally good" an expression? Because it should be.
As I was stepping over the corpses of the rest of his family (I meant to mention I bludgeoned them before my second sandwich, but I got caught up with the part about microbrews) I noticed a phone in his late wife's bloody hand. That's when I remembered I could have made the money transfer over the phone, but no regrets. I mean, seriously, the dude had like four different kinds of cheese.
I had made it a full week with no social media of any kind, and I'll be the first to admit this was a tough one. NoTwitter. No Facebook. What was I to do? A full week. How do you go a week without reading: "UGH! Stuck in traffic!" or "OMG, you guys, thanks so much for the get well basket!!!!"? I wasn't sure. I mean, it occurred to me that I could probably get a fix of that just hanging around mental patients who talk to themselves, but most of the crazy people I know, I met online and they live far away.
Although originally a penal colony, Australia is now unofficially the Internet's holding cell for nutters.
Besides, it was Facebook more than Twitter I was missing. And there was no simple fix to compensate for all it had to offer. I sat in my garage chain-smoking cigarettes and shaking. I'd pocketed the garage door opener, painted the windows black, and locked the door. I didn't want anyone to see my withdrawal. I had a need. A hole that could not be filled. And as I writhed back and forth, mumbling incoherent things about Farmville and hating the new layout, something happened: I rolled over the garage opener in my pocket. There was the hard snap of a heavy spring and then the tug of a door slowly letting in the light I had refused. But not just light. More. The feet, then legs, bodies and, ultimately, the concerned faces of my beautiful wife and children. So worried. So happy to see me. This is what I had been missing whether I was trapped in a dark garage or a brightly lit computer screen.
And that's when I realized how to fill my void. I ran out of the garage. My family raised their arms to greet me. I felt their fingertips grasp at my bathrobe as I ran into the center of town, screaming, "Look at me, look at me" and publicly masturbating. It wasn't quite Facebook, but it got me through that last dark day.
For more from Gladstone, check out 5 Things from the 70s We Want Back and 5 Popular Phrases That Make You Look Like an Idiot.