There used to be a time, laid back and simpler, when I didn’t have the entire world in the palm of my hand in the form of the contraption called the smartphone. Inconceivable though it may seem now, there was a time when socializing meant paying visits to people you wanted to talk to, hoping they’d be home because there were no phones to call ahead and make plans. You wrote letters to friends and relatives who lived outside your town, and you waited for them to reply. You went to work in the morning, came back in the evening and tried to forget about it until the next morning. If you went traveling, you carried a camera with a capacity of 36 photos (or 72 if you decided to splurge on two rolls of film!) and so you clicked photos very thoughtfully, deciding if some scenery was worth dedicating one shot over. Then you came home and waited for the film to be processed, and saved those photos in carefully labeled albums. Those albums in turn would be shown to people who visited you, and over a cup of tea and warm conversation, you would share your travel experiences. You definitely didn’t take photos of your dinner and went around showing them to people nor yelled “Oh my God this is the best thing ever!” from your rooftop after you’d tasted said dinner. Let’s hear it for those days when patience was a virtue everyone was required to have; when instant gratification was a little rare to come by, if not unheard of.
For the sake of getting to my point faster, let’s skip through the interim phases; that of the desktop computer and then the Internet through a cable connection, of the laptop, of the mobile phone and of the WiFi, and cut straight to the thing in my hand right how that’s letting me blog while I put my baby to sleep.
I was sucked into the smart world of a smartphone sometime in 2012, when I got my Nokia Lumia, and it was a revelation to me. Multitasking became seamless: one moment I was responding to a mail from my editor (that was my Fried Eye days) and the next I was chatting to a friend about her wedding plans. I would be talking to my husband about dinner and browsing recipes at the same time. I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I would do was check if anyone had tried to get in touch with me over the night, and what had changed in people’s lives in the span of eight hours I had remained disconnected because I was asleep. When I got the iPhone in 2013, I plugged myself in tighter. I got Whatsapp, and Instagram and Pinterest and Goodreads, and a whole ton of apps to fetch me more news, music, recipes, books and yes, games (my husband will still remind me of my Temple Run and Subway Surfer days) Anything I could think of, there was an app for, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t get that app instantly.
Then I became a mother, and my world came to a screeching halt for a few months, and then sputtered and started picking pace like a snail over the period of the next months. As any mom would vouch for, taking care of a baby demands nothing but your complete attention, and it was like my world revolved around that tiny helpless bundle counting on me for her every need. Everything else seemed less important, and that’s when I took a step back and looked at the world of multitasking through my husband.
I would see him wake up in the morning and reach for his phone, fingers hurriedly typing out some reply to some mail, while I’d sleepily cuddle up to baby and try get some more winks before the long day started, my phone long forgotten somewhere. When I’d get up, he’d be sitting in front of his laptop, typing out some more while listening to music, while my laptop gathered dust on a shelf. He’d put the phone on charge, hurriedly scroll through Facebook more out of habit than anything, and go take a shower. He’d get dressed, go out and while waiting for the bus, he’d be staring at the phone screen. In the cab, he’d be bent over the phone, typing out mails or browsing news. Even after he’d come back from work, it was the same scene. It was like the guy never got disconnected and I had never noticed it until I detached myself from the marvelous world of endless possibilities that the smartphone+internet connectivity combination provided.
Admittedly, I would never understand the goings on of business that needs to be tended to in the middle of the night. Which is why I would ask my husband why he needed to reply to a mail at 3am in the morning. He’d mumble something about different time zones and how everything seemed urgent. There would be times when we’d get some rare time alone in the evening and he’d receive a mail that would prompt him to send a reply immediately. If not a mail, he’d get calls and messages about work. And I realized that as long as his phone was turned on, he would, for all intents and purposes, be in office.
And so it would have continued, had it not been for one evening when he came back home a little overwhelmed, and started talking to me about how he felt the need to respond to something immediately because the notification would be taunting him. About how it was almost compulsive: the desire to be informed, to be on top of things. I would never understand the way things are in the corporate world, never having been a part of it, but I could see how it was getting to him. And while I essentially am living the life of a toddler (now that I am off Facebook except to post stuff on my page, with limited access to my phone during said toddler’s waking hours, and too tired to do anything by the time she’s asleep) I do understand the stress that comes with being loaded with information all the time, regardless of whether you need it or not. And that’s what I told him.
I mean, really, have you ever taken a step back and thought about just how many things you are trying to juggle at the same time? About how easy it is to get drowned in an abyss of details, and more details until you no longer remember what exactly it was you were looking for? About how life would be if your smartphone wouldn’t only let you do one thing at a time?
Probably more difficult, but definitely simpler. I have been mostly disconnected for over a month and I can tell you that I don’t miss the chaos much. I have found out who the people I really want to stay in touch with are, and more importantly, the people who want to stay in touch with me. I am reading more and writing more. I have written long letters to people I care about, and enjoyed listening to music better without feeling the need to “share the link” immediately. I have overcome the desire to mindlessly browse for news of “friends” I barely know on Facebook, and have happily forgotten my phone for hours at a time when I go outside.
As for the husband? Well, duty will always call, but we’ve agreed that it will call only during sane hours, and anytime after or before that, it will receive a busy signal. Here’s to a semblance of a simpler life, and enjoying the best these times can offer while sieving out the superfluous.