Thursday 17 March 2022

How Much Technology Is Too Much?

I've seen more emails in my inbox in the last three months alone, for remote controlled drones, bike and car cams, apps, app programming courses and all kinds of newly invented ( and it must be said, quite ingenious) MFD'S (multi function devices) , than in the last three years put together. Wow, wow, & wow indeed.

As a volte-face reaction to this swathe of gadgets and gizmos, with app upon app (and more apps for dessert), I've found myself hankering for some retrospective action with simpler devices and gadgets.

Does anyone remember any of these?

It's analogous to going back to the womb of a more analog world and sucking on the thumb of your retrospective electronic nostalgia, whilst feeding on the milk of the comparitive simplicity of the experience.

Take for example, your pre-smartphone mobile phone or cellphone handset experience. How long did the battery last between charges?

And were you concerned with having extra battery backup packs? Or screen protectors? Or cases that double up as a ..

No, you wern't.

By comparison, will you have enough charge left by 4pm on any working day this week, to ensure you can use all of your social media apps, whilst being able to get your email and web browsing experiences into the rest of the day? More importantly, will you still have enough juice left to listen to about five or six songs ( because no one has to the time to listen to an entire albums worth of music more than once, which is closer to the day it's been downloaded), in the process?

It's a difficult question to answer without 'uhmming' and 'aahing', so for ease of choice,  coupled with a relatively solid reality check, it's safer to say that NO is probably the likely answer.

But why?

Because we've travelled far away from the convenience and simplicity ( which surely was the original point), of having a mobile phone, into the realms of carrying a close facsimile of our desktop or (more likely these days), laptop on the move.

And as much as I love the convenience of  potentially being able to more or less replicate some of what I do at 'desktop' level whilst away from a stationary place of work, it begs the question as to why I should feel the need to supposedly do so all the time. 

I guess it's because like many others, I was told it was the best way forward. In essence,  you're never too far away from being able to 'get on with it'.

Because my life is now busier than ever, i'll love how all these features make my life easier. The exoskeleton of my daily, weekly and monthly life, will be effortless to synergise (and manage), using my smartphone.

Okay, so it has made my life somewhat easier in some areas, but its complicated it, too. And how. 

Firstly, I have to ensure I'm carrying a charge cable in the car (no wait..the right type of charge cable, as one size doesn't fit all). And if I'm away for most of the day, i might need the actual plug-in charger with me in a bag or in a pocket, with perhaps its own charge cable; not everywhere has convenient usb charging ports. The horror, the horror.. unsightly bulges ahoy. 

A converter plug may also be required for foreign travel.  A useful tool, as not all hotels have the required adaptors or even the cables you need, in case of mishap. I still keep a euro plug adapter in each of my weekend cases, for this eventuality, because its a reality I've dealt with many a time. 

Then there's always a powerbank or two (it's a lovely looking rechargeable battery pack). And that in itself has to be kept topped up as well, in case you use it and blast all the juice at the moment when you most need it. 

This will be when you're watching something on YouTube, and are only half an hour away from your car or train arriving, with the cable and/or aforementioned charger which was in your pocket, now stuffed into a spare corner of your luggage due to the discomfort ( let's be honest, it's acute pain),  it was causing you after being in your pocket(s) for so long. In effect, the irony, the agony and (not quite) ecstacy all made manifest in one fleeting moment.


Secondly, unless I carry a wireless keyboard around, then typing anything beyond a few lines in an email  ( I won't get into the realms of producing a spreadsheet or an article using my smartphone with the built-in touch keyboard interface...does anyone do that? And regularly ? If so, I bow to your tenacity, skill, craftsmanship and bonsai-gardner like dexterity) using the smartphone, is about as easy as milking a plastic cow.

Thirdly, I cannot physically print anything out without carrying a printer around with me (not everyone still accepts or uses e-sign). So that's even more bulk and bulging pockets. And that's one more step along the slippery road of 'this is too much'. It ultimately facilitates carrying a large briefcase around which is..


And finally, why is it that most people (including myself) , don't actually like to talk a lot ( or at all?) on the phone anymore? Is it because of the multitude of ways you can now communicate using your phone without actually talking?

We now schedule time to meet for a drink in a pub or coffee shop using our smartphones, whilst we're ironically then sitting there staring ( and swiping), into our phones. In effect, giving each other our time and energy has become the secondary activity. We occasionally look up at each other to acknowledge our presences, but the main retinal focus point is the smartphone screen. There's a myriad of expressions and facial contortions that are also part of this experience, but that's an 'each to their own' scenario.

Ultimately, it appears to be that the device itself  seems to be the only real friend we now trully have.

And all of our actual, flesh & bone composite friends have become similarly lost in a myriad of swiping, tapping & taking bad selfies ( the good ones are out there somewhere too), on social media websites as well.

It's true, you know. But it's also funny in an unironic way.

As is losing your smartphone.

For instance, many years ago I left behind my then new smartphone at St Pancras station on the concourse, and only realised my boo-boo when I got onto the train. I shrugged my shoulders and was relieved  that I hadn't stored any critical information on the device. But when I narrated my situation to others (i.e. chatty fellow travellers and  my friends when I got home), I recieved looks of terror and surpisingly, even horror.

These reactions wern't out of sympathy that I'd lost my phone ( there was some of that, but it wasn't the prevalent emotion), but more the sort of reaction I'd expect to have gotten If I'd told them that I'd almost died or lost an appendage. I found this odd and quite disturbing.

I was also met with blank and quizzical looks when I genuinely said that if i'd have lost my phone , I wouldn't have lost much sleep. That's true, because I'm all too aware that most people ( if not all), whose numbers I have, are also in my email lists on various email accounts which originated long before my soujourn into smartphone land. If all else fails, I still have a good old fashioned paper diary (actually, there's more than one), to fall back on. 

I got the phone back from St Pancras lost property ( remarkably, someone had handed it in, which did make my jaw drop), after a perfunctory phone call explaining my situation. I was relieved as the aforementioned notwithstanding, smartphones aren't cheap to replace as a device, even using ebay & other used goods portals.


Reading the above, maybe I'm wibbling about nothing really, because there are solutions available.
For instance, I could downgrade to an older handset, such as a nokia 3650 type. But then I wouldn't get full value of service from my network provider.That'd then mean no more clips of youtube, music on tap, emails, WhatsApp..

Oh. The very things I've just said we're doing too much of.

We're fighting a losing, I'm fighting a losing battle. I spend two hours a day during my 'downtime' just idily tapping on the smartphone, checking emails and doing nothing of note, but burning new cellular tracks into my retinas in the process, whilst gurning occasionally. And now there's V.R. to contend with too.

I don't want least not yet. Not until someone convinces me that i need it more than I need lobster thermidor, and a bottle of good wine to go with it.

I'd much rather have one of these, instead :-

I won't need to carry it around, it'll do one thing in it's own way, and I know it'll be around long after four generations of my current phone will cease to do what they all do, in any shape or form. Problem solved.

Not quite.

But it's all part of my own quest to not become too sucked into the halo-effect of new technology and innovation.

Make no mistake, I love technology and am always pleased when I read about and discover some new innovation somewhere. Even more so when I find it is serving a function or purpose which has a genuine need or problem that needs resolving & solving.

And that's the point. It's there to serve us, entertain us, help us and not enslaven us to it.

So as long as we can remember that, and remind ourselves of the boundaries between healthy useage and over-consumption ( a zombified  expression is one sign of needing a time-out) , we're going to be just fine.

Just one more thing..

My birthday's in August, in case anyone's interested in buying me a teasmade.