Staunton, April 11 – Two years after the start of the pandemic which forced Russians to go online in many aspects of their lives, the combination of Western sanctions and Russian government policies is prompting them to return to an off-line world, something that creates both new stresses and new opportunities, Aleksey Shaburov says.
The editor of Yekaterinburg’s Politsovet portal suggests that this process will go relatively quickly as sites are banned and IT providers run out of parts to maintain the system at the speeds Russians had become accustomed to. They will thus be compelled to return to off-line arrangements (politsovet.ru/73556-nazad-k-salonam-i-gazetam-rossiya-uhodit-v-oflayn.html).
“Those who have been complaining about the disappearance of face-to-face communities can take heart,” Shaburov says. “It is returning. But that raises the question: will we be able to communicate again in this way and how will we organize it?” Some things are obvious: the return of free advertising papers; but others are less clear and more difficult to revive.
With the prospect that social networks will collapse, many are already beginning to “seriously speak about the rebirth of clubs and salons where people united by common interests or a common social status might assemble.” As the Internet in Russia deteriorates, the Yekaterinburg commentator says, such steps will become ever more likely.
There are certain drawbacks about such a development, Shaburov argues. Among the most serious is that this new salon culture will be dominated by “elites who have the time and other resources for this form of community. Information equality, which the era of social networking brought, is coming to an end.” What this will mean is difficult to predict.
This shift will also present problems for the state. How is it to control offline activity given that doing so poses larger challenges than controlling the online kind. But the greatest problem of this change is for society as a whole because large swaths of it won’t be able to take part in the new offline world and so will be left out of much of political life.