Monday, May 17, 2010

21 million people go without internet access for 10 months

How many of you often think that you should waste less time on the internet, chatting on MSN to people you haven't met in years (or ever), updating your profile on some social networking site or watching random videos on Youtube?
Well in the marvellous land of China, an entire province of 21.5 million people has been forced to let go of such time wasting habits for almost a year. In the province of Xinjiang, a huge expanse of land in China's North-Western frontier, the internet was entirely cut off across the province since the ethnic riots occured last July. The authorities, claiming that the Muslim separatists were using the internet to organize their activities, decided point blank to block any access to the internet in the entire province, which is around eight times bigger than Great Britain and has about a third of Britain's population. The move was justified with the need to "maintain social stability" and contrast activities harmful to it. This policy was only reversed two days ago, when the internet was finally unblocked in Xinjiang after ten months.
Although in China many rural areas still lack internet access in any case, in cities (including Xinjiang's cities) the internet is a part of people's lives almost as much as it is in the West. The situation in Xinjiang represents a unique sociological experiment, which no university researcher could ever hope to repeat: seeing how a relatively modern society copes without the internet for an extended period of time.
According to a report in yesterday's China Daily, the people who will be most unhappy about the return of the internet are the owners of cinemas, bars, KTV (karaoke) parlours and other entertainment venues. As a result of the lack of internet access, people had been going out to such places far more than usual. DVD sellers were also doing much better than usual, since no one could download films from the internet. The happiest about the return to normal will probably be businessmen, whose operations were obviously seriously disrupted by the ban. I would suppose that people who use the net to speak to relatives who work in other provinces will also find the return most welcome.
It was also reported that a street poll of 100 random people in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi found that only 10 declared themselves "severly affected" by the ban, while 70 declared they could cope comfortably with the situation, and 21 said they didn't miss the internet at all (yes I know, it makes 101 people, go figure). Some people even described the last ten months without the net as a kind of "mental detox". Take this example from the article:

"It was hell for the first couple of months without the Internet, which I think I've been addicted to since 1999," said Luo Liang, 29, an advertising planner in Urumqi. "I didn't know how to entertain myself. I felt so frustrated and helpless.
"But then I started to find alternatives to keep me occupied, such as watching movies and going to KTV with my friends. I later realized that my dependence on the cyber world is actually an addiction," she said.
Luo even started to learn Japanese, which she has always wanted to, by utilizing the time she normally used to surf the Internet.
"My attitude towards the Web has changed. I've learned that there is more to life than Internet," she added.
Sound familiar? If I were unable to access the net for ten months, I might well have similar things to say. Although the Internet is certainly an extremely useful tool, and I am not suggesting that we should get rid of it, I can't help feeling that perhaps there would be some positive sides to doing without it (yes, yes, I am using the internet to share these thoughts with you all, but so what?). The amount of time most young (and even less young) people seem to waste reading, watching and writing inanities on the net far surpasses the amount of time they spend doing anything useful with it, like doing research or communicating with people they actually need to communicate with. As a result, people also seem to me to be reading less novels and books, and perhaps spending less time with real people.
Anyway, it may be that humanity is only just starting to get used to the presence of the net, and as time goes by things will stabilize and people will learn to use it in a more balanced manner. Or maybe not.
(Below, a photo of the skyline of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.)


Anonymous said...

the passage is impressive,it reminds me of the reasons why i need surf on the internet,i have to learn english and talk to you and so on.because i can gain so much fun by doing this./aileen

Anonymous said...

to be honest, compare to the internet, i prefer the book.listening to the music is the most common thing to me.i spend more time on the book than the internet./aileen

B120ryantScipio1 said...

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