What happens when the hyper-connected people of the digital age are cut off from communications with their digital world? As many of us know from personal experience: rants, frustration, general ill-temper. I was just reading this New York Times article about the subject, and its contents caused a few raised eyebrows on my part.

Web addicts who find themselves shut out of their favorite Web sites tend to fill blogs and online bulletin boards with angry invective about broken promises and interrupted routines.

I’m just as technologically-connected as the next person, and probably more so, but I think this connection has given me a calming perspective on what computers and the Internet are capable of doing for us. If a website is down when I try to access it, why is it such a big deal? Even if it’s down for a few days, like what many of these people seem to be complaining about it – is there any reason for you to feel personally put-upon? It’s not like the webmaster of the site wants you to leave; he or she would be quite happy reeling in your page views for advertising dollars. They’re working as hard as they can to get their site remodeling, or transferred, or working in general – this is not an attack on your pointless Twitter routine of telling people what you ate for lunch.

In this day and age of shared computing, server farms running countless backups of Google and Amazon, and broadband internet, it’s easy for some people to forget that they’re all just computers and hard drives, just larger and more spread out versions of what we all have in our own homes. This dependency that we have on technology and our favorite websites being available to us at all times may perhaps be expected due to the amount of time we spend on it every day, but it’s foolish.

Take Facebook, or MySpace, for example. People spend so much time on these sites, updating their profiles, building massive photo libraries and friend lists…but why? Facebook has only been in college for as long as I was, and it’s been available to the “real world” for even less time. For all we know, it could go the way of so many other large Internet sites and vanish in a few years, taking with it everything everyone ever stored on it. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed or even likely, but so many of my friends rely on Facebook as a communication device, even more than email it seems these days, that I wince a little whenever I see a friend or colleague sending important updates or communications through a proprietary system like Facebook’s messaging system. And in MySpace’s relation to Facebook, the company should take that as a warning: people are always quick to jump ship to another group that does the same thing that you do, better. There is no loyalty when it comes to free Internet services. Output is all that matters.

Instead of simply dumping the service and moving on with their lives, Twitter users have responded with an endless stream of rancor, creating “Is Twitter Down?” T-shirts, blog rants and YouTube parodies, and posting copies of Twitter’s various artfully designed error messages.

What would we all do if our favorite websites went offline for even an entire week for maintaince or something? Could we all just sit back and read our favorite books again, or pick up a newspaper or magazine? I like to think that I could, if need be (that’s the nice thing about speculation). We can all rest assured that the Internet (or whatever eventually replaces it) is around to stay, but as long as computers are computers, there will always be failures, site updates, browser incompatibilities, power outages (either at your computer or the server), and all those annoyances that still punctuate our online activities. So when I see (or read about) these thousands of angry, ranting bloggers complaining about their favorite forum being down, I worry about the 21st century population’s ability to be disconnected for when the inevitable inevitably happens.

It’s at times like these that we can always turn to SomethingAwful Dot Com for inspiration and guidance.

The Internet Has Ruined You!

Thanks, SomethingAwful.