The corona crisis also proves to previous skeptics that digitization is a gift for humanity. The social distance now offered would be unbearable without the Internet.
This text begins with an absurd-sounding request: look up briefly from the screen and observe your immediate surroundings in which you are right now. And then briefly imagine how different your current situation would be if only one thing was missing: What would your life be like if there was no internet?
Sure, you wouldn’t be able to read this text. It is on the Internet. But much worse: The current exceptional social situation would probably be even more depressing than it already is. While the world is trying to find an appropriate, maybe even relaxed way of dealing with corona stress, technology is experiencing a boost that has been critically judged in Germany in recent years. The Internet is proving these days that it is a gift to humanity.
No, that does not hide the fact that a wave of rumors and false information regarding the Corona virus is currently being washed over the Internet. The hate comments and slander that the so-called social web brings to light should not be talked down. It is just that all of these appeasements and concerns come from the pre-Corona period. They describe a pre-digital stance that the internet thought was a nice additional option.
Like the special equipment in the car – that was once
Before the current crisis, the Internet was something like the special equipment in the car for many: gimmick, interesting for fans, but in reality irrelevant for getting around. Some considered the digital bonus to be dangerous. That is now changing suddenly. The corona crisis also shows digital skeptics the scope of global networking. The Internet is – to try a word from the last major crisis in 2008 – “too big to fail”: It is systemically important. End of the taste debate.
The largest German internet hub DE-Cix in Frankfurt has reported a record these days: 9.1 terabits of data were exchanged in a second last week. More than ever before. The press release states: “Internet use is playing an increasingly important role.” The sentence sounds like from a future essay from the 1990s, but it is a description of the situation from the spring of 2020. The corona crisis is a social tipping point at which even the skeptical sections of society are putting the possibilities that have been described for years into practice.
Keep social distance without giving up the connection to other people; work outside the office and still access data; teaching without sitting in a classroom: how should all of this work if the internet didn’t exist? Network operators have started offering Internet access free of charge during the crisis.
What is available is finally used
Where social life is shut down offline, social life is being started up online. That will have long-term consequences. Readings are now being put online, concerts are being streamed and lessons are even taking place on digital platforms. Colleague Andrian Kreye recently described this as “forced digitization”. But maybe it is also a necessary step in the growth of a technology: Finally, everything that is available is used.
In any case, the view of the Internet after the Corona crisis will be different than before. So far, the network was only a supplement to the program (“Find more information on our website”), then a hype topic (“Everything is now online with us”). But it was always an exception, a peculiarity. Corona makes the Internet a matter of course. The picture that emerges is not that of optimists or pessimists, but that of realists. After the involuntary jump into the water, which Corona means, the cautious and doubtful, who were previously worried at the pool edge, will have a better say in swimming than ever before. They’ll swallow water and splash around awkwardly – like everyone who learns to swim. But afterwards they will know new perspectives from their own experience and maybe even develop swimming styles together with others in the virtual pool that we do not yet know.
This applies to all areas of networking. Anyone who previously thought that “home office” was just another word for “sitting on the sofa” now hears really good ideas and sensible suggestions through noisy video conferences. Those who assumed that lessons could only be held in one room at a time enjoyed the opportunity to convey knowledge via digital platforms or short video clips. In all cases, something new arises: people invent rules so that they do not constantly cut themselves off in video conferences; develop methods to create intensity even in distance learning.
Of course, the Internet is only as good as the society that uses it. From this grows the mandate to everyone who connects now: stop complaining and start using this gift according to the values of a free and open society for the good of all! This applies in the current exceptional situation, but above all afterwards. The only online phase of these days will then be helpful. Because for the first time, the generation of those who were born before the Internet will report from their own experience an experience that has bound the natives of the digital age for years: They will feel how great, how helpful digital networking can be.
That’s good news. Not just because there are so few other places.