15 Days Only On A Smartphone {Understanding the internet - 3}


The Internet, The Digital Age and Social Media is all over and ubiquitous, at least in Modern Urban Life; everywhere you look, everywhere you turn - you can spot its presence, its over-arching and all-pervasive influence. Virtually every news media, every conversation on the topic of the internet - all of it focuses on its all pervasive presence and the impossibility of staying without the internet & social media  on a personal level.



This is now getting into an entirely new field : The Smartphone. It is increasingly thought that the power of the smartphone can replace the old desk- and laps by a segment of thinkers; that the smartphone can do just about everything; that it is now as essentiality; that be it personal or professional, you cannot survive in the modern world without the smartphone; that it is not a luxury but a felt and present need, as essentiality.



Life put in my path a chance, an opportunity to test both hypotheses, this all-prevalent understanding, this universally accepted truism by virtue of a transfer to Nagpur, without my Laptop or Desktop, at the mercy of a smartphone only till my new asset was allocated to me by the central team.  And truth be told - while at the official level, it may pose challenges, at the personal level, I have enjoyed it immensely, as it has exposed me, or rather reintroduced me to joys long forgotten, methods and habits now thought dead... 




On an official scale, it did pose many challenges- not insurmountable, but still challenges. It is just not feasible to get the same level of productivity on a smartphone as it is on a laptop; while basic tasks can be achieved with a modicum of ease and even convenience, complex and long tasks require the comfort of the laptop. That said, I cannot function without a smartphone anymore - not professionally, not anymore. Neither can I do so without a laptop - I require both. 



On a personal scale - it did not pose any challenges. There was not even one single bad point of not having a desktop or a laptop; it was a complete waste and a completely useless product, having no value addition. Not one personal task suffered, not one inconvenience was caused by not having access to the desktop or the laptop. Of course, you might comment that there was the smartphone : but hold on just a minute...



In the past 15 days, my usage of the smartphone was minimal for my personal purposes. While on an official level, I cannot function, I just cannot function - on a personal level, much to my surprise, I found myself quite comfortable not using the smart functions of my smartphone. I minimised my presence on Whatsapp, was sparing on LinkedIn and Facebook, and so on : and I did not miss it. Let alone miss it, to my tremendous surprise, I found I quite liked it.


  
I chose to call my relatives in place of Whatsapp messaging; as one example. I chose not to respond to comment on facebook and other social media and so on. I could go on and on; but the fact remains that on a personal level, my life suffered no major hiccups without the smart functions. This does not mean that the smartphone is useless; I did use it for important tasks - like ticketing, googling important things like stores in Nagpur, locations etc


 The impact of this conscious effort at abstinence on a personal level were learnings on professional and personal arenas; in the personal arena - many occasions and tasks, which could have been easier with a little bit of support, became hard in the absence not of the smartphone or the internet, but of the absence of the proper supporting infrastructure like apps and payment mechanisms. Not using the smart capabilities for these tasks revealed the immaturity of the overall market and that it has still a long way to go before being fully relevant and developed




I stopped playing games -  no Candy Crush, no Subway Surfer - nothing. I found a lot of time for neglected aspects like reading, which broadened into interest areas I would not have thought of earlier; I found other ways and means of using leisure. I rediscovered the beauty of the night sky and the environment, found a like-minded person who is interested in wildlife, found the inclination to plan a visit to the nearby Forest...


Can we function on a personal level without a smartphone? In Urban India, not really. But is it an essentiality, an unavoidable reality? Happily {being from Telecom}, No. I say so because while I minimised my usage of the smart capabilities of my phone, I could not take them to zero usage. Railway ticketing, option hunting, house hunting etc would be pretty much impossible without a smartphone. Thus, being from the Handset Trade, I am happy that the smartphone is now a ubiquitous presence in large parts of India


I found my residence in Nagpur on the Internet on my smart device; I found a job this way; I found many locations and other titbits of information that way; I got great value addition.  Most critically, not one task came up where I felt that I missed a Desktop or a Laptop. In my personal space, that had no value. But all of this together did not use up much data, and therein lies the rub. In a nutshell, while the smartphone was a massive value addition in important tasks and is irreplacable, removing it from my personal space proved to be a value - plus.


This places two clear challenges for the app space and for the service companies : the absence of offline payment mechanisms and their easy access {Cash cards, itzcash etc}, are one area of deep concern. The complete absence of apps that can really add value in personal tasks was another area. But most importantly, the fact that all my personal tasks taken together did not use more than a few hundred MB of data is a clear indication of the trend for the service industry in Telecom, and its challenges, but more of that in another article in this series. Let us leave this thought here.   



I close this article with one thought  : is social media over-rated? In 15 days of minimum usage, I have noticed no problems in being absent from Social Media. Sure, it is needed and a nice way to keep in touch and being informed, but it is, beyond a point, completely useless; moving away from Social Media has caused no problems so far as I can see. As a matter of fact, it has lead to positives in many ways...









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