As usual I’ll start with a quick backstory – When I was in 10th grade, I’d called a radio station to request for a song and the radio jockey had told me that I have a very hazy and seductive voice for a 14 year old. I got yelled at by my dad for being told that by a boy on public radio, yada yada yada. A year later, I was recounting the incident to a new classmate in school and he refused to believe that any radio jockey could have told me that and I offered to call him later that evening so he could hear my phone voice. As promised, I call this boy later that evening and I say, “Hey, whats up? What are you upto?” and the boy says “I’m in the toilet”! I say “Yikes, why would you take your phone to the loo, and I’m going to hang up because that’s gross!” Now, 14 years later, I am guilty of doing the same. Ok, no, I am not typing this post on the pot, but just saying.
Every time I am about to poop, I first look for my phone, because I think I won’t be able to do it alone – I need my WhatsApp groups (yeah, next time you add me to a group, think again!), Instagram Explore feeds and so on. It’s absolutely mental how these smart phones have taken over our entire lives. I am from a generation who recognises this is mental and once in a while tries to detox, take social media sabbaticals and may be even go on a phone-free meditation workshops. I don’t know what the younger generations are doing, I guess I’m going to find out as my daughter grows up. But my parents and grandparents’ generation on the other hand, have gone completely reckless like teenagers who’ve found cheap dope.
We were visiting some friends yesterday and they were talking about how their parents, uncles, aunties, etc. have now replaced the post lunch nap with a two hour WhatsApp marathon. They are basically busy reading all forwards they have received and doing the responsible thing to do as dutiful whatsappers – forward them onto other groups they are a part of. I remember calling my mum from the US every night (when it would be her mornings) and she’d talk to me for a bit and then say she has tonnes to get done before leaving to work and hang up. When I asked her why she couldn’t finish all the work given that she’d wake up at 4:30 am, one of the big agendas for early mornings apart from doing dishes from the previous night, washing the front yard, etc., was reading all the WhatsApp messages and deleting them. Yes, you read that right, deleting WhatsApp messages is a thing amongst these uncles and aunties.
For starters, most people don’t exactly know that you can disable auto download of media onto your phones, which means you are bound to run out of space on your phone. Now, once you enlighten people about this feature, they are faced with a bigger dilemma, “I don’t always have the time to see all videos/ photos immediately, and so I may forget to download them. Also, it takes longer to download one by one for assessment.” All very fair reasons, but my response to that would be – “It’s a WhatsApp forward for god’s sake, why are you wasting your time on it, get a life!!!” My mum’s poker faced response to that would be – “Some are very important messages and are quite useful, I don’t always have the time to go looking for it on the internet”. This is usually when I give up and spend time backing up all these photos and videos onto google photos so they can move on with their lives.
I remember my parents would keep nagging us about being on our phones back in the early 2000s, and now, our roles are reversed. We are probably the first generation that is seeing our parents act like teenagers even before they fully grow old. I’ve heard/ seen that people start behaving like babies as they grow older, start to become dependent on children for being taken care off, but acting like teenagers in their 50s? Swalpa new this is for us I would say. I remember being in a team meeting a couple of years ago when I lived in Barcelona, and my mum texted me around 7pm (10:30pm IST) asking me to call her back.
The last time I’d got a message like that from my mum was when my dad was suddenly admitted to the ICU a couple of days after I’d moved to Barcelona, so you can imagine my anxiety. I immediately excused myself from my team meeting to run out to make a call and my mum picks up the phone within one ring, and says “Pinky, I can’t find the folder with all the photos I’ve downloaded from Facebook on my phone, how do I find it”. I couldn’t figure out if I was relieved to find out that everyone back home was well, or if I was amused to see what kept my mum up at night. It was the first time I was living in a different country, and I was still living with some age old ideas about what was a late night trunk call worthy news.
While we all exchange amusing stories about our respective parents and their revelations with technology, I think it is absolutely amazing that my parents’ generation have a way to keep their social lives active, even if it were just virtual because growing up, I remember wondering why my parents didn’t have a lot of friends (to be fair, as a parent myself, I now understand how hard it is to keep an active social life while juggling full-time jobs and children, and I am sure my parents did their best). I also think it’s amazing that I can see my granny every other weekend even though we live miles apart and that my entire family back home can see Berry grow up.
While technology enables me to feel at home while staying away, I do hope someday in the near future, we can just take our virtual communities from WhatsApp and recreate those into real physical communities, and restore the past. Growing up, my mum would always say that history repeats itself and what was fashionable in the past would become fashionable in the future again, and for once, I really hope that comes true.