What is life without mobile gadgets?

By Richard Leo Ramos, as originally posted on Life without Mobile gadgets, Philippine Online Chronicles

iphone 0 asphalt 1

Our present-day digital world is all thanks to two significant developments in technology: the rise of computer networks as virtual communities, and the creation of mobile devices that keeps us connected to those networks most of the time.

It’s hard these days for the younger generations to imagine what would happen if they didn’t have their mobile gadgets to keep them connected to … well, practically half their lives. However, let’s say that one day, mobile devices were disabled, or more realistically, the Internet would go down for a large area. What would happen then? Would people survive without their mobile devices and their internet connections?

That alien, unplugged feeling
The first thing that many people feel is a form of separation anxiety – they simply have this feeling of dread that they are not kept current on everything that is happening in their social media and online feeds. It can be as simple as a feeling of confusion, to an all-out panic.

Now, if that sounds like overacting, be assured that it is not. Many people who are connected all the time to the Internet world through their mobile devices usually are because they keep track of scheduled meetings, events, and e-mails that are important to either work or interpersonal relationships. Disconnection, then, makes it impossible for them to answer or respond immediately, which can sometimes be seen as an ultimate form of snobbery, or perhaps even an insult.

However, it’s still quite possible that you have been mentally conditioned (read: addicted) to online interaction, too, and now that your enabling tool has been removed or taken out of action, you’re suffering the mental equivalent of withdrawal.

The need to know
The blessing – and curse – of social media has always been that it allows you to keep in track of all your friends and loved ones (and even enemies). And because Filipinos, by nature, are community-oriented and rely on tight-knit social interactions, it’s no surprise that our country has become a global hotspot for social media usage.

Where else can you see even construction workers and other kinds of manual laborers have decent Android mobile phones, and have multiple social media accounts? Yes, that may sound a bit classist, but it also points out that access to social media is already being budgeted, both in terms of hardware and access cost, even by people for whom those costs would practically eat into their budgets for basic necessities.

Does that mean, however, that Filipinos see their mobile devices and their online connectivity as part of their basic human necessities? The answer, to be blunt, is that it may well be that online presence is a necessity in their minds.

So: What if we really were forced back to a life without mobile connections?
Going back to our original point: what *would* happen if we did find ourselves without our mobile devices and online connections?

Here are some possible things that can happen:

Planning daily schedules more meticulously
One detrimental issue with mobile connectivity is that it has allowed people to slip on their appointments. Rather than planning ahead of time for horrid traffic and possible acts of God, the idea that you can always text or message a person that you will be late has become a convenient crutch for lateness. Without mobile devices, do expect that people will be cramming fewer things to do in one day, if only to compensate for the fact that it will be downright embarrassing and unprofessional to be late without warning.

Answering and writing mail becomes more thoughtful again
Without mobile devices, people will set aside time to properly check their e-mails, and perhaps even set up lines of correspondence with loved ones and good friends. In fact, it’s highly possible that if online connection were to be on desktop PCs again, that messaging services would see a decline in use, or would be used to send messages, but not necessarily to chat. Actually, that sounds like the early days of the Internet!

People will be setting up more coffee dates
Without mobile devices, people will catch up with each other through actual face-to-face meetings again, rather than messaging. In one sense, this will be somewhat “slower,” since people will have to catch up on what could be a few years’ worth of life experiences. On the other hand, it will generate a certain eagerness to see each other again, since you won’t be bombarded by updates – or by any activity feed, for that matter.

More time for other things
Let’s face it, one of the big problems of having a mobile device is that at the end of the day, we are tied to it in subtle – and overt – ways. Without mobile devices, we can actually structure our time more around real-life situations, rather than online updates.

The sad necessity
Unfortunately, the fact stands: modern society now expects people to be in contact 24/7, be it for work or personal time. Still there are ways to minimize how mobile devices affect your life:

1) Set it aside when you have to – Even if you do have a mobile device with you at all times, do make sure that if you have an important conversation, or if online messages and alerts will be a disturbance, that you will set the mobile device aside, and keep it silent. That way, you can give the situation you are physically in your full attention.

2) Use priority settings – If you are waiting for important phone calls or messages, do make sure to set check alerts, or to set a different ring tone for messages from specific people. That way, you can differentiate important messages from the rest.

3) Be aware of your “contact schedule” – If you have important meetings or activities where you do not wish to be contacted, or if you simply wish to have work or “me” time, then do be sure to also “train” your friends, loved ones, and work contacts. That way, contact with you will also become systematized, rather than people thinking that you can be contacted anytime, anywhere.

Losing contact is not about deprivation
Life without a mobile device isn’t the end of the world, or even a way of limiting contact with others. In fact, if used the right way, a “controlled” use of mobile devices – which is equivalent to losing them anyway, for periods of time – can be very beneficial to people, by allowing them to reconnect with the real world, and realize that real-world interactions are still more important than looking through social media feeds.

The next time you have separation anxiety from your mobile device, it’s time to think about making sure that having no mobile device won’t cripple your daily life. For all you know, disconnection might help you put back some order and priorities in the way you deal with people.

 Photo: “iPhone 0 : Asphalt 1,” by Faris Algosaibi (Flickr.com)

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