35. Wi-Fi and 200 grams of e-opium please

I stood still in front of Bangkok’s largest shopping mall. Oh my Buddha. I’ll probably get lost within this consumers’ maze. It’s ok; getting lost is part of life. Ideally, I would remain a merely reachable minimalist. I rather remained a spectator who’s immune to meaningless distractions. But I also want to stay somewhat up-to-date. Participation to a certain level rules ok. And the ultimate way to do so is by using a smartphone. Even the biggest Technophobes and critics are on board nowadays. At home, in Bangkok, anywhere. Virtually everyone around me seemed to be plugged in. There I stood while I watched with my watch. Hey, someone has to represent the youth of the last century properly. The representation was because I lost my magic toy six weeks prior. It’s not the end of the world. Far from it. It took a while, but the urge to constantly grab the toy faded. Life without was pleasant. Clear, relaxing, serene. No need for an unnecessary panic-purchase. Hell no. Let me experience this weird transition time to the fullest. I wanted to appreciate the smartphone-free existence as long as it lasts. Times change quickly after all. Very quickly. Perhaps a bit too quick for my liking. 

I passed hundreds of identical phone stores. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees with so many brands, specifications and flavors. I kept wandering in circles due to paralyzing choice-overload. What a total waste of time and energy. Damn, that’s exactly what I wanted to reduce with a smartphone. What? Yeah, really. Those versatile devices are quite handy. I learned that the hard way a few years before. At the time, I thought the wonder-gadget was too present in my life. All previous generations were able to manage without all that stuff. So I thought: so can I. Enthusiastically, I swapped the Galaxy for a Nokia. Very nostalgic, retro… and a few steps back. I tried to avoid the inevitable for half a year. Living the past in the present leads to nowhere. One day, I wondered why I was causing myself so much difficulty. Roadmaps, rolls of film, yellow pages, cassette players, cheques and all that kind of outdated rubbish are hopelessly obsolete. A lot of functionalities disappeared with a simple cell phone. Making pictures, planning train trips, navigating, listening to podcasts, watching TedTalks, checking exchange rates, online banking, synchronizing calendars, taking notes, e-mailing, booking accommodation, scanning QR codes, looking up information… Even the built-in flashlight is useful. All kinds of tasks became more time consuming, cumbersome and expensive without a trusted supercomputer. I succumbed in the end. I returned to the phone shop in utter defeat. My noble cause was a lost one.

A Thai salesman gave me a Swiss army knife of the 21st century. Awesome. What a relief. I was so happy with this compact all-rounder! No stress at all, far from it. From now on, I could walk past the few (virus-infected) internet cafes that remain in business. No more hourly rates, blocked mail accounts, missed appointments or outdated information. Lovely. Plus I’ll be spared of mental glances or dismissive jokes. Others often thought that I was fooling around. Err, no. I really don’t have a mobile phone. The facial expressions of my fellow Millennials said it all. Disbelieve. Bewilderment. A total lack of understanding. They were amusing and revealing. We became so (mentally) dependent on computers and the internet so quickly. It’s simply unreal. As a former game junkie, I watched the digital takeover of mankind with suspicion. I was fed up with all of it. All I wanted was to let it all go. But putting all the blame on technology ain’t fair. My e-abstinence made it painfully clear that smartphones are mere tools. Excess is overkill. It’s all about the implementation. How you use them makes all the difference. Constructive or impulsive. Balanced or unrestrained. Sensible or foolish. It’s true. I’ve seen the light after this smart-detox. This time, I’m not going to impose myself a half-hearted monks’ existence. I’ll combine the best of both worlds instead. I’ll dose the usage of smartphones with great discipline and control. I’ll make use of the real added value of technology. I’ll mostly turn mobile data off. I’ll resist the neurotic click-and-scroll urge. A crystal clear plan was in my head. Now let’s make it happen.

I unpacked my gift once I got back at the hostel. It was ready to use in no time. So I did passionately. I scrolled and tapped as never before. I quietly returned to the Wi-Fi monastery without any notice. Congratulations. You’re fully in line with modernity once again. Far out ay. Now I can lose myself as in the old days. Bring on the attention-guzzling idiocy. The gradual dumbing down is straight in the face and yet so subtle. That’s quite an achievement in itself. Oh well. All payphones are disappearing. The tight lockdown of the Matrix is only a matter of time. So be it. I’ve seen enough of this planet. I’m glad a new world awaits me. Numb the boredom, conceal the senselessness, reinforce the regularity, be alone together and finalize the occupational therapy. Err… no thanks. On second thought, I’ll give that confusing mass-madness a miss. Connecting consciously with connection is the aim. Everything is under control, for God knows how long. Now that’s the question as I hold this portable black hole…

Tools must remain tools; this choice rests in our hands.

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