Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Berry Addicted

After having resisted valiantly for years finally I acknowledge defeat and succumb to a force greater than my free will: I have as of today joined the army of almost twenty million Blackberry carriers that are now roaming this planet and whose number multiplies faster than a proliferating amoeba.

Although in my defence, the device came into my hand not by conscious choice but foisted upon me by corporate decision in its effort to cut down on company phone bills and to make sure the boss can bother you at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Personally I’ve been hankering after the latest iphone, the Blackberry never having made it into the top ten of my gadgets wish list, not even when it morphed into a Barrackberry. But then not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I resigned to having the lumpy thing weigh down my already bulging bag and expected no fancier use than as an emergency back up to my faithful GSM and CDMA devices.

Until that is, it got magically ‘activated’. Within hours of being formally accepted into the BB community, I was hooked. The thing not only started taking over my brain functions and controlling my life but also changing my personality. No doubt very soon I would share the telltale traits of a Blackberry addict: the perpetually moving thumbs, the glazed look, the absentminded air of one relentlessly preoccupied with life’s greater things.

And how could they not be? Like having a chip planted by some aliens in our brains BB owners carry a virus of addiction and dependency that even the most powerful man on the planet cannot prevail. I fear it is only a matter of time before this thing in my hand defines my identity and existence. Certainly I’ve met BB holders who suffer from panic attacks and break into a cold sweat when their little gadget is not within arms reach.

As a matter of fact BB holders have a Pin in their device that basically acts as our identity in BB world and enables us to have instant communication with each other (and which, combined with a GPS, incidentally makes it much easier for those aliens to track our whereabouts on earth and see how fast the BB converted multiply).

Imagine on my so-called Smartphone I can do email, voice mail, chat and send instant messages, send files, browse the Internet, record video and audio, take photos, upload them onto my Facebook, listen to music, read the latest news, play games, and oh, make phone calls. In other words, just about every activity related to communicating and sharing information short of telepathy.

Interestingly however, I find that this expansion of communication capability and exponential leap in interconnectedness is contributing to the BB holders’ growing autism and eerie descent into solipsism.

Faced with multiple modes of communication, it seems that BB owners find themselves in some kind of angst when they are actually in the same room together. For when one is used to communicating using chat, blackberry messenger, google talk, sms and email, having to express oneself verbally and directly without the comfort of abbreviated text and the safety and clarity of emoticons can be quite unnerving :(

Yes, BB owners function a lot better when they’re left to their own device, so to speak and get irritated when their time is wasted by real face to face conversations or forms of communication that require some kind of focus, substance and do not involve a track ball.

But then why have only one conversation when you can have ten going on at the same time? Why not have a lunch meeting, check your email, have BB conversations with your friends and argue with your colleagues over SMS at the same time? Why bother with a real conversation at all? I’ve even seen BB owners carry on a discussion with each other over their phones even as they sat quietly at the same table.

And now I too belong to that exclusive club of sophisticated people with super interconnectivity at our fingertips with my very own Pin number. I decided to Ping a BB friend. My BB friend Pinged me back. We spent a good part of the afternoon pinging each other. Life is so exciting…

(Desi Anwar: The Jakarta Globe, February 2009-02-05)

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