In the world of six-inch something

Among many, not being able to connect to people and the world in this 21st century is surely not one to be advocated.

The smartphone world appears to be the most favoured place to visit, among those permitted, during the past 60 odd days of lockdown. As I imagine a world without smartphones and the unthinkable hardship its absence could result, I realised I am on the verge of being rendered phoneless as the number of smartphones in the house is now reduced to one from two a couple of months back. Imagine the fact that smartphones are the most favored medium to access essential items like banking transactions, ordering groceries, and most importantly accessing news. According to the India Digital News Report 2019 published by Reuters Institute, 68 per cent of Indians identified smartphones as their primary source of consuming news. That legitimises my curiosity as to why the medium through which an essential item is accessed is not classified as an essential item.

Just a week into lockdown, while I was busy on my phone scrolling the updates in some news portals, my son and daughter were fighting over who’d get mommy's phone. I don't know how different an experience it is watching Peppa pig on TV from Mobile. But they both are drawn to the one with smaller screen size. It could be the result of the mobile craze, an entitlement relaxed strictly for lockdown period, considering their understandable boredom devoid any schooling or playing at parks or for that matter- not being outdoor at all even once in the past few days then. In the ensuing fiasco, my mobile phone was thrown against the wall at an unimaginably powerful force and the phone died instantly. 

The following days the only one phone in the house would be juggled between four people in the house making my phone looked like the coke in 'The God Must Be Crazy' movie. The only difference being, I paid a handsome amount for it and won't ask anyone to get rid of it. If my better half has a good excuse for needing the phone to place an order for essential items online, I have 'important messages from workplace' or 'accessing news' justifications to get hold of the phone. As for my children, they are blessed with the gift of crying for what they desire. 

In the course of time I have realised that our world has been reduced to 6 inch something and smartphones have become our best friends. At the start, it was a medium that connects us with our best friends. Of late, our best friends are just one of the many reasons that connect us to our smartphones. Movies, viral videos, games gossips, news, etc dominate the majority of our phone-time. 

I remember an incident a few years back when the internet was suspended for a week due to some law and order situation. It was unimaginably hard. But the silver lining was that, families start communicating and there were laughs with people and not just those that came from a room with just one occupant in it. There were human interactions of speaking and listening to people around them. That was quite the opposite of a situation where WhatsApp message in the group named "My Family" would show notifications "time for lunch everybody." Nevertheless, the drawbacks do exist. Among many, not being able to connect to people and the world in this 21st century, not to mention the cessation of many important tasks we rely on smartphones to execute, is surely not one to be advocated.

Domestic hardships and moral implications of devoting time to family aside, smartphones and the internet are no less a right for individuals in this 21st century. The deprivation of it unless it is of immense importance is therefore a violation of one's right. I could not help but accept the possibility of few people accusing me of sounding selfish by raising my concerns for smartphones when more than hundreds of thousands of people are dying and praying for recovery from a highly contagious disease. I will gladly hold my thoughts if my effort of being silent on the subject profits in any possible ways those affected people. But since that seems, at least to me, not the case and as one Smartphone continues to jiggle in the house with the possibility of dying at any instant and while I still scratches my head over how Smartphones are not labelled the way I'd hoped, I can’t help but ponder over how and why it has become so essential an item in our lives. 

First Published:May 24, 2020, 8:48 p.m.