Smart or not

I remember the moment quite clearly. I was completely lucid and walking past a shop which had funny looking bulky cellphones with lots of buttons, displayed with colourful banners. This was a time in life when looking at my Nokia’s blue screen made me feel a bit smug. However my carrier had just launched something called the ‘BlackBerry service’ and I was curious to see what the fuss was about. So I walked up to the counter and that is when it all began.

Cut to present-day and I have just bought the new Android phone. Let’s be honest, it was new a few days ago, now however, I have tweaked its open source operating system and options so much that even I don’t know what it is anymore. It has crashed several times so far and I have rescued it by reading reams of tips and guidelines on different forums full of people like me. My friends even have a Whatsapp group for this new technology and we spend our nights tweaking our Androids. Sometimes, this is accompanied by maniacal giggling at 4 am when something works like it should, much to the horror of our better halves.

This is what a smartphone does to you, eventually that is. It can be a Blackberry or an iPhone or the latest Android fetish, in the end it reduces you to a zombie. Yes, you are walking around going through the motions of everyday life, but we all know that your soul is tethered into your device and your real life is being lived online, in packets of data beamed from one cellphone tower to another.

If you could tear your eyes away from that screen for just a minute and take a look around – you will be shocked to see that you are not alone. All around us people are constantly connected. In fact, a recent article on smartphone usage in South Asia reveals that 100 million smartphones are sold in this region annually. That’s a lot of people spending a lot of time online.

It is becoming so bad that countries like South Korea have given a name to people like us, we are called ‘web addicts’ and there are two million of us in a nation of 60 million people. Doctors in Singapore are likening our constant need for data input akin to the pangs a drug addict feels when drawn towards their next hit.

The point being is that we need to look at some symptoms (of our ‘drug’ abuse) to recognise and maybe even rectify our habit.

1.      You use it in the bathroom

Quite self-explanatory. If you are using a smartphone while on the can, it is not just bad hygiene but you have dragged the equivalent of a computer into what is supposed to be the most personal space in your world.

Verdict: You are addicted

2.      The sense of panic when you cannot locate it

You know that feeling of pure horror when you cannot find it in your pocket or your handbag? What will your Twitter followers do now? How will your Facebook friends live? How will you update your virtual friends and let them know that you cannot find your next digital fix for an entire five minutes!

Verdict: You are addicted.

3.      Instant bonding with other users like you

Have you had the following conversation with random people who also carry the shiny, black hole as you:

You: “Hey have you tried the new Google Sky Map app yet?”
Random person: “Yes, it is so awesome!”
You: “You know, I am saving up for the newest version of this phone.”
Random person: “Really? Is it slimmer?”

Verdict: You are addicted

4.      Your battery does not last…

You know the little book containing important information that came along with your smartphone? The one you ripped to shreds while unpacking the box, just so you could hold your newest acquisition? It says that the standby time on your device is 50 hours, yet you are charging it from almost zero, every six hours. Guess what that means? Yes, you are addicted!

5.      Spending more on accessories than the actual device

It begins slowly; you know, a car charger here or there, a desktop, some extra batteries and before you know it – you are the proud owner of a wristband for your phone plus the mandatory seven covers for each day of the week or a few loopy ones for when you are festive. You do know it’s just a device right? Plus the fact that all of this will be useless when you upgrade to your next one in say, three months?

Verdict: Sadly, you are addicted!

So here is what I recommend: it is a real walk on the wild side for many of us now but eventually if you want to get out of this painful loop and back to life, there is but one choice. Pick up your smartphone and drop it in a bathtub full of water. My three-year-old did that once, telling me that since I use it so much – he needed to wash it. I still haven’t listened to his sagely advice but then who has the time? Not me, I have a ROM update just about to finish!


As published in the Dawn Blog on 25/4/2011