Surfing the Net recently on Facebook, I came across a lengthy statement from a friend in German, a language I know little or nothing. As my friend scarcely uses Facebook, I was intrigued but as the application allows us to translate, I clicked on the button. The text was understandable in the amusing convertor from German to English, where some words were not needed, apostrophes wrongly added and commas were in strange areas.

Nevertheless, the paragraph was easy to read. My friend narrated his experience after arriving in the city of Singapore. His perspective was humorous as his anecdotes were portrayed in a manner similar to one addressing the Earth after visiting Jupiter. As he put it, people were different, the barriers of communication were often strange and difficult, and food was often an acquired taste. But my own experiences, when settling down in Singapore, were different. However, a common factor in our experiences was the mobile phone.

Never before was the phone used so flippantly and was so strangely addictive. Was this phenomenon specific to Singapore or did it span the oceans?

Every year, new technologies are being created and today’s marvels quickly become yesterday’s news. With Androids, iPhones, BlackBerry, Samsung and a host of others, the expanding portfolio is only increasing. While these technologies capture attention, and have usability and the easiness of everyday life, my personal outlook has often been marred by their addictive nature.

Nokia and Ericsson, which touched the lives of masses in the 1990s, are now outstripped by iPhones and the likes. The fast-paced industry makes these products not only disposable to many but also alluring with their numerous features. It is a contradiction in terms, to say the least. On the one hand, a mobile phone can now accommodate pictures, video, music, chat, Internet, movies and more, resulting in our becoming a cocoon of self-containment.

Furthermore, our feelings of loneliness, isolation or boredom can be replaced with the pleasure of free flow of electronic delights. In essence, the necessity for human interaction in a verbal and physical context has been reduced significantly to the portable-sized life tucked away in our pockets.

Habitual practices like asking for directions are now passé, thanks Google maps or similar applications. The natural instinct of making a phone call is slowly giving place to the free function of chatting. Not only does it reduce cost but also provides a gateway to instantaneous responses and reactions from friends and family wherever they are. This has been highlighted recently in the application ‘whatsapp’.

To many, the mobile phone is the entry into liberation, freedom and release. This portal of untapped access makes daily life a little bit easier in a world, which is always taking a step forward. The mobile phone is now part and parcel of our existence, allowing a bigger portion of our world and life to be accessed which was previously thought of as a closeted mystery.

(The writer’s email: apskjmenon@gmail.com)

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