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Chris Slattery

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Last week, the Grand Valley Lanthorn asked students how the Internet works. And while I first scoffed at the fact that no one really knew what makes the World Wide Web work, I then concluded that these selected students explained their hypotheses more intelligently and coherently than I would have had I been asked the same question.

I probably would have tried to make a joke about LOLcats to deflect from the sad truth: I take my Internet for granted.

It really is something that we all do. An astounding tool is literally at our fingertips, and we waste it on the most trivial of pursuits, such as playing silly games online.

Of course, I am one of the biggest Internet abusers at GVSU as I spend countless hours a day Wikipedia-ing my favorite bands and updating my 344 friends on the status of how my breakfast was today. (For the record, I had Cocoa Krispies, and they were fantastic.)

The point isn’t that we all need to know how complex technologies work so much as we should not take them for granted. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but have you ever thought of, like, what would happen if, y’know… the Internet stopped working, man? And not just in your apartment complex, either. In the entire world. Man.

What if all the servers stopped serving?

Of course, there are some obvious repercussions: TV show ratings would go up when people stop watching them online, the newspaper industry would rebound (and certain columnists could afford that new Mercedes), and the pornography industry… well, we can just leave that out of it for the time being.

But also, consider these scenarios: Imagine doing a research paper, having to read book after book in a library, and then having to read another book to guide you through how to cite the other books. Imagine never again being able to Google or Bing or Ask Jeeves about one more topic, just to double check and see if Zach Braff is really dead. Imagine how useless your iPad suddenly becomes.

Really, you had to get an iPad?

Now, this isn’t some campaign to get people to stop using StumbleUpon. In fact, use it more. Search the far reaches of the World Wide Web, but instead of immediately dismissing the plethora of pages available, recognize how amazing this gift is.

The Internet may be a maze of tubes underground or some invisible haze in the sky, but really it is a tool – something to figure out who Esperanza Spalding is and how she managed to beat Justin Bieber in this year’s Grammy Awards. It is more than a place to dump a handful of embarrassing texts received from your parents or to post videos of your roommates attempting to sing the words to the theme song from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Just keep in mind that, someday, you may not have the technology to update 344 people about cereal any more.

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