Whatsapp

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

Published September 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

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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WhatsApped!

Published October 15, 2014 by vishalvkale

THE PROBLEM STATEMENT

The title says it all. WhatsApped! That is exactly what I was, as I noted 1086 messages on my mobile one fine day. I was flabbergasted, and literally stunned, and more than a little irritated. I have seen 100 messages, 200, and even 300 in a day. But 1000 messages? That is much too much, any which way you look at it. There is simply no way I was going to read all 1086 messages, that much was certain. 

Then my mind turned to my own addiction to WhatsApp – and I realised I was part of the problem, not a victim. I was both the problem as well as the victim of overload – not because I was a massive and active contributor to the stream of messages on a daily basis; but because I was an active reader of the jokes and other pointless messages. My participation was usually limited to Politics and news related issues, which make up less than 5% of the daily flow. 

I further asked myself : was I really enjoying those jokes and messages? Answer : Some, I was; some I found gross and in bad taste; and some were downright offensive. Further, I asked myself, was I gaining any information from it? Unequivocally, no, I wasnt. Was I wasting my time? Answer – yes, I was, beyond even a shade of doubt. Was I wasting battery and memory space? Yes, I was. Was I going to read all messages, or do I read all messages? No, I dont. 


SELF ANALYSIS, AND DISADVANTAGES

These are relatively minor aspects & obstacles, and easily overcome by the simple expedient of placing groups or notifications on silent, and ignoring and / or deleting messages by clearing chat history. It takes less than a minute to do it across 7 groups. Simple, childishly so. Memory space can be freed by deleting snaps, videos and images, and turning off auto-download. But in doing so, I am firstly being less than honest with group members. And more importantly, I stand the real risk of missing an important message sent on the group. It has happened, you know. People do tend to forget that important things should be personally followed up individually. 

Then I began thinking – wait a minute. 1000-plus messages! What the heck? We dont talk to each other on the phone, say we are busy; but find the time to send each other a thousand messages, as well as the time and inclination to read them – judging from the conversations that go on? Just think about it : one thousand messages! Now that, I respectfully submit, is information overload – especially considering there is not an iota of information in all that lot. 

Then I remembered the fights that happen on WhatsApp groups, one of which I have been a personal part of. Fights on politics, jokes and any sundry item. Fights which go to the extent of relations souring and people breaking off. And all this over a written communication over a technological marvel that was meant to make things easy for us. 

And that is when the incongruity, the ridiculousness and the outright immaturity of it all hit me hard. Information overload, fights, time wasted – all over something so unimportant as a WhatsApp message. We dont communicate over the phone – but stay glued to the mobile for hours on texting, WhatsApping etc. We get into squabbles over this, we insult, and insult openly – unmindful  of the fact that the whole group is listening in, or reading in. For the record- this isnt about WhatsApp, which is an immensely useful productivity tool, as I cover below. It is about me, and people like me, and how we use this wonderful application. 


WHATSAPP AS A PRODUCTIVITY TOOL

As a utility, and a productivity tool, WhatsApp is a great enhancer and value addition. You can send snaps and images of documents for instant verification and / or feedback before sending hard copies; you can send images of competitive activities in the market, new products; You can share new ideas, plans and developments instantly over the entire team in the twinkling of an eyelid; and so on and so forth. It adds considerable value to the business equation in terms of efficiency added and ease of communication as well  as aiding decision making. 

As an entertainer, it has  great potential – I was a recent part of one such activity, wherein some of us bloggers got together to write a novel for a competition; in that, the power of WhatsApp was a tremendous boost, as each person could read the entire groups’ views and participate as per his or her own convenience and time. We exchanged views, fought, argued, planned – but all of it was for some purpose : the completion of the novel, which can be found here : The 16th Hour. Yet again, WhatsApp proved a valuable tool and productivity enhancer, and much superior to mails and other forms of communication for the activity at hand. 

DECISION TIME!

When I put it all  together : the path was clear. Information overload, fights with friends and/or family, waste of time… it all added up to only one direction. Exit all family  groups; since they are friends and family – they will understand. I dont think being a part of a WhatsApp group defines family, at least. I cant run the risk of spoiling relations just because of a stupid fight on WhatsApp. And whether or not I am on WhatsApp, I will remain family, that is certain. Ditto for friends groups – put on permanent silent, or exit. 

Frankly, when  we get into silly fights with friends and family over status updates, WhatsApp jokes, it is time to take a call. When we get 1000 messages a day, it is time to ask ourselves some hard questions. Especially if some vital and informative messages get lost in the clutter of jokes and pointless messages that clutter up the board. 

People tend to forget- in a normal conversation, the words are lost, and not recorded for posterity. In a normal conversation, passive listeners have the option of moving away from two sparring fighters. In a normal conversation, an insult to another person is heard by only the people in proximity, who tend to intervene or move away. Well, in WhatsApp, the entire fight is in the open, and recorded for all posterity. 

WhatsApp is not meant for this – it is a productivity tool. It is also a tool for fun – but that does not mean cheap fun, or insults, or pokes. It also behooves a person to think before posting – would it hurt anyone in the group? Having seen huge fights {as different from disagreements}, I know that this is not the case. I, too, have been a party to a fight. And lost a relation temporarily. Once is more than enough, thank you very much. 

You dont like it, or it bores you – ignore it, like I find non-veg jokes risque and bad. Or leave the group; but dont insult and/or fight. And on being insulted, rather than respond – shut up, or leave the group; preferably the latter. And please limit those messages; but that latter bit is an individual matter – as I said, I didnt like it – so I quit the groups… having said that, I still cant see the point of getting 1000 messages, and not one person having the time to speak to each other over the phone! But that is me. Perhaps I am a bit old in the big, bold new world that has been WhatsApped, or TechApped! to be more specific… 

I prefer it the good old way…

meaning… “tring, tring… hello?”