Every decade is characterized by a dominant influence of the times. So, if 80’s was the Doordarshan(TV) era, 90’s the Computer era, the 1st decade of this century – the Mobile phone era, then this decade is certainly the Smart phone era! And this era is afflicted by one significant syndrome. If you want to understand what it is, it is quite simple. Try answering the following simple questions:
What’s the 1st thing people do, these days after waking up? After brushing their teeth or perhaps even before that?
What’s going on while sipping the morning cuppa of tea or coffee?
What does one do, while waiting at the bus stop?
What do you see most youngsters doing, while travelling in the train these days?
What do people do most of the time, while waiting for their order in restaurants?
What do folks do when they are waiting for the signal to change while driving?
What do you do at airports these days while awaiting the boarding call?
What does one do while waiting in any line?
In a group of friends what do you see most of them engaged in?
Before the advent of the smart phone, giving a pertinent answer for all these questions would have been difficult as they can be quite diverse. In the smart phone era though, the answer to all those questions in all probability is just going to be one which is “Checking the phone”!!! Welcome to the era of “Constant Checkers”! I read some time back that the American Psychological Association (APA) after conducting a study on the behavior of people of late, has come up with this term called “Constant Checkers” for those who constantly are checking their phones for e-mails, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, WhatsApp messages, video clips and so on.
Being a “Constant Checker” and having them around have become the new normal! So, when I saw a poster at my friend’s place which read “I saw a guy at the Coffee shop today. No phone, No tablet. No laptop. He just sat there. Drinking Coffee. Like a Psychopath!”, I wasn’t amused. The days are gone when one visits a coffee shop to just enjoy the coffee! In the pre-smart phone era, parents used to worry that their kids suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Because of their lack of focus or concentration on one activity and their constantly wavering moods. However these days, I reckon that it’s the opposite. With most kids getting addicted to the smart phone in their teens of late, they suffer from “Attention Abundance Disorder” as most of the times they are hooked on to the phone with single minded attention!
Those days, when guests come at home, they are put to ease first by offering a glass of water. These days – it is by providing the Wi-Fi password!!! “Constant Checkers”, aside from checking their timelines constantly on social media, also keep “checking in” somewhere and announcing to the world of their whereabouts. More than visiting a place, announcing to others that you have visited that place is the order of the day! On our annual holiday last year at a hill resort, when the manager at the reception informed the guests that there was no Wi-Fi in the rooms, the disappointment was palpable. So, in the entire resort which had a swimming pool, reading room, play courts, recreation centre and the works, the busiest place was the “Activity centre” which had Wi-Fi! Airplanes which used to be one place with no connectivity, have also started providing connectivity. Yesterday’s news says that even in India, we soon will be able to browse midair! So, for a “Constant Checker” being on a plane is no excuse for not checking nowadays!
In line with the adage, “What goes up must come down”, I guess soon we will see the burnout of this syndrome or so I hope. And the signals are visible somewhere in the horizon. In the many WhatsApp groups I am part of, I saw few of my friends exiting the groups as part of their New Year resolutions to be less hooked on to WhatsApp. They claimed it to be a temporary measure and wanted to try it out. As stress levels go up due to the constant checking, “Digital Detox” is getting popular. I see online status messages which read: “On Digital Detox, please don’t disturb” more often than before. However the jury is still out on if the detox helped or created serious withdrawal symptoms! I also see a sense of fatigue setting in of seeing the same messages of frivolous nature being circulated in different groups with a result, one just chooses to ignore the chats in most groups and focuses on just a select few. “Constant checking” also invariably becomes a bone to pick for wives with their husbands or vice versa.
With WhatsApp being actively used for serious business communication nowadays, “Constant Checking” has become unavoidable at one level. As in most aspects of life, the challenge is to strike a balance while taking advantage of what technology can offer. The same is true for “Constant Checking” as well, I fathom till another disruption emerges.
Post Script: At a Chennai restaurant in what is a bold move, they ask the patrons to leave their mobile phones behind in a locker. And I’m told that the place is getting popular with the wives and Girlfriends!!