This Is What Would Happen If The Internet Collapsed

The internet has essentially consumed every aspect of our lives. As of 2021, DataReportal counted 4.2 billion active social media users in the world (53.6% of the planet's total population) and found that 59.5% of humanity uses the internet.

Power outages — even brief ones — demonstrate just how reliant so many of us are on our various gadgets. What would we do as a species if the World Wide Web happened to disappear? You're probably not going to like the answer.

The good news is, the internet is sort of like an unkillable tech Hydra. It isn't reliant on a central router, provider, or device. Individual websites can go down, providers' services can be temporarily lost in certain areas, and malicious attacks can debilitate specific corners of the internet. But to bring about its downfall entirely? As HowStuffWorks concludes, the internet as a whole would survive the destruction of any machines linked to its millions of pathways. With that being said, dramatic setbacks are certainly possible, whether through warfare, the increasingly bleak situation the planet faces, or natural disaster.

Snail mail, tubes, and smart grids

In a hypothetical scenario where the internet is lost, the biggest peril to humanity would likely be financial in nature. According to The Economic Times, e-commerce was worth a staggering $22.1 trillion globally in 2016. Per How Stuff Works, the loss of businesses that depend on the internet would create an influx of newly unemployed professionals, the destruction of various businesses (both slowly and painfully and almost instantaneously), and a devastating recession.

According to How Stuff Works, the United States has been investigating the potential of smart grids that communicate with each other via the internet. The loss of the internet in a world that relies on such technology would plunge the country into turmoil, with protracted outages threatening peoples' very lives. From private homes and cities to whole countries, this would be catastrophic on every scale.

The loss of any internet at all would also threaten global stability by hampering the functioning of government and law enforcement. Most frighteningly of all, it would force us to resort to archaic methods of communication like snail mail. We might even have to use pneumatic tubes, which were a quick and convenient way of transporting physical items around offices before email took over the world, Wired reports. In the late 1890s, this system carried mail between some of the post offices of New York City, and Paris' own system was in use until 1984!

There you have it: without the internet, as Cracked notes, our world would be overrun with elaborate tube systems.