The Daily Collegian Online

By Stephanie Gog

On Tuesday, I returned from my afternoon classes to read a terrifying e-mail.
A virus had been found on my computer, and ResCom would need to reformat and rebuild my machine.
Oh, yeah, and until then? I would have no Internet access in my dorm room for an indefinite period of time.
And so began my foray into the world of sporadic Internet access: bugging friends to borrow their laptops, hitting up the on-campus computer labs and even calling home to ask my brother to check my e-mail for me.
It was difficult, annoying and eventually, extremely stressful. The truth was, I had no idea how much I depended on my computer.
Earlier this year, a study performed by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design and Sequent Partners discovered that the average American adult spends about eight and a half hours a day in front of screens.
Quite tellingly, when the research findings were broken down, the 18-24 age group spent more time on the computer than all but one of the other brackets, 35-44.
At Penn State, so much of our survival as successful students depends on constant contact with the Internet. Professors often rely too much on ANGEL and WebMail to send out last-minute information, so we find ourselves clinging to the Internet to get the latest updates.
Upperclassmen may remember when ANGEL faced downgraded performance during finals week in December 2007. Online exams had to be shifted quickly to paper ones, and many students could not use ANGEL notes as a study tool for their exams. In short, it was a mini-disaster.
Accordingly, as soon as I learned about my unfortunate loss of connection, I panicked. I feverishly racked my brain, thinking about which out-of-class assignments I could accomplish without turning to Internet Explorer.
One of my professors neglected to give us paper syllabi, instead instructing us to read it on ANGEL.
Another professor said she would post important articles on ANGEL for us to read before the next class.
In previous semesters — or hey, even on Monday — I would have thought nothing of these assignments. However, in my incapacitated state, they presented new challenges.
After freaking out for hours on end, though, I made a startling realization.
Without Google, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. I read the entire newspaper, spent more time chatting with my roommate and caught up on some leisure reading.
No longer ruled by that pressing e-mail that I simply had to read or someone’s weekend pictures that I simply had to view on Facebook, my free time was finally mine again.
Although the stress is still there, it’s been a refreshing experience to be no longer chained to my Dell.
At the same time, I wouldn’t wish the experience on any Penn State student. When so many classes are reliant on computers, the Internet is indispensable.
Perhaps it’s a lesson that professors could consider from time to time — does the Internet have to be such a pervasive part of almost every class? What ever happened to good old-fashioned verbal communication?
If nothing else, losing contact with the Internet may be a valuable remedy for a stressed-out student: Turn off your computer for a couple of hours. Pretend that it’s broken. See how it changes your perspective on what’s important in life.
I suppose that’s nice to dream about, but it might not be possible.
Your professor could be sending an urgent e-mail about tomorrow’s quiz, and goodness knows, you wouldn’t want to miss it.