(Why)-Fi

By: Noah Zaiser

Wi-Fi is a funny thing. Not funny in the normal sense, but rather interesting. It can determine if we use our phones or not, and on this particular Semester, it’s a real treat if we get any at all. Service is consistently in and out, often absent at pretty inopportune times.  Not only does it decide if we can watch a movie on our laptops, but also if we can type our papers. So in a sense, it would be rational to assume Wi-Fi is a necessity, right? Well, not necessarily. Allow me to explain.

Think about fifteen years ago in the past. What were you doing? Watching TV? Reading a book? Having Lunch with a friend? You reach into your pocket, and what do you find? The answer would be just about anything but a phone. In reality, it wasn’t even that long ago that you wouldn’t find a “Free Wi-Fi” sticker on half the area’s restaurants and people staying in a café on their laptops for hours on end. I think we’ve gotten so used to being connected on a daily basis that life becomes strange or even less enjoyable if Wi-Fi isn’t readily available, and it’s amazing to think of how much our enjoyment rides on a network of connectivity that keeps the phone carriers from charging us for data.

This week of service in Mullens, West Virginia was one of those specific times with little Wi-Fi or phone service whatsoever. We stayed in the Mullens Opportunity Center (affably alternatively known as the “MOC”) that was converted from an elementary school after a flood rocked the small town in 2001. One could walk just about anywhere in the school and have no signal at all, essentially rendering any phone useless. Unless you were one of the few that had AT&T or even Ting (don’t ask about Ting), it wasn’t possible to send texts, watch movies, or check social media. So of course, being the desperate college students that we are, the space that became known as “The Wi-Fi Room” was discovered within an hour of arriving. The catch here is that the Wi-Fi would shut off at any given time without warning, and shortly after, the room would be deserted. It was in these moments, when the Wi-Fi couldn’t be used, that I found the group thrived. We’d actually look up from our screens and have meaningful conversation. We’d get a game of Spikeball rolling. We’d read. We’d cook ourselves something or make a sandwich. We were always capable of doing these things, it just took a bit of de-connectivity to trigger it all. Even so, this goes beyond just a single week of service. So much time of our lives is dedicated to staying on Wi-Fi or phone service of some sort that we completely miss the world around us. As much as I personally enjoy being able to use my phone, I’ve discovered over the course of this program that there is an unbelievable amount of excitement and beauty in life, and some of the best things to discover and experience happen when all technology is gone.

As a whole, I’m definitely not against Wi-Fi. It has a ton of great uses, and I enjoy using it as much as the next person. But believe it or not, life has a lot more to offer than just what you see on a monitor or a simple screen. There’s the opportunity to experience and do productive things outside of it all, and I truly believe the past week has shown me that it’s a great thing to unplug every once in a while. There’s nothing quite like seeing life as it is for yourself, so here’s to “off” button or switch.

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