The Great Gmail Blackout of 09

Yesterday, Gmail was down. It was out for a few hours, causing mass chaos and widespread panic… well, not entirely. For the few of you out there who don’t depend on Gmail for your email (or those of you that found you could use Gmail from your iPhone or iGoogle) your world went on just as planned (Besides being bombarded on Twitter with GFail messages) and completely unharmed. But what about the rest of us who depend on Gmail for our every day interactions with the outside world? Those of us that use GChat (and its AIM tool) to stay in touch with family and friends? What were we to do?

During this Gmail blackout, I started to wonder, do we (or I) rely too much on the Internet? Have I come to just assume it will always be there? Do we take it for granted?

For me, the answer is clearly yes. I use the Internet for everything. It’s not just the place where I do the majority of research for work, stay in touch with friends, and stay entertained (where else will I find clips from Glee until the show returns next Wed?!) — but it’s where I keep my WHOLE LIFE. I don’t own a personal filing cabinent. I don’t keep hard copies of bills. I don’t even balance a check book. I do EVERYTHING online. Copies of my license, registration, credit cards, birth certificate, and more? All scanned into my computer and saved at a secure website. How do I keep track of my bills and checking account? I go to my bank’s website. I don’t even keep copies of my medical records, past doctor visits or vaccines — after all, a simple click tomy health insurer’s website will reveal all I need to know and more. And when Gmail went dark yesterday, I suddenly realized that my other websites (and by extension, my life) were just as vulnerable.

The Internet turns 40 today. And while 40 seems like a lifetime for me, it’s not that long ago that people didn’t have the Internet to rely on for their everyday needs.

Forty years ago, the Internet was just some crazy idea that most people could probably never envision. Even those involved with its advent probably never even imagined where it would take us today. And while people survived then without the Internet — how would we survive now?

It’s hard to imagine a world without the Internet, but think about how much we (not even just us social media geeks) rely on it. Sure, there are probably some upsides of a non-Internet world (newspapers and magazines would once again have their hey-day, phone books wouldn’t be a waste of paper, we’d be able to live more private lives and we’d probably all be a little more physically active) but can you imagine a life without the Internet? Would your electricity work? Would building security still work? Would your bank (whether or not you use online banking) still have everyone’s records, and know how much you have in your life savings?

So today, on the birthday of the Internet, I ask you to look back and think about what your life would be like without it. I know mine would be drastically different. And while the Web probably won’t be crashing anytime soon,  I think it’s time I invest in a filing cabinet. Or at least a large folder.