Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Slave to technology


By Ertanch Hidayettin

The late Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckenberg. I regard these names with mixed feelings. I wish to praise them, swear at them or when I am really angry, beat them up. Well, at least beat up Mark.

A week ago I left my phone at work. I was rushing to go to a meeting. I noticed this when my hand automatically went to my pocket to look for my Galaxy S4. Horror of horrors. I first thought, “Oh great!” I could test my resolve for a few days. It was Friday, see.

In times of extreme distress, my hands begin to sweat first. This happened after forty- five minutes into my journey. Despite the cool air emitted through the train’s air conditioning ducts, my face too started sweating. Cold turkey syndrome. Until I arrived home my hands kept going into my pocket. Walking home from the station, my feet took me straight to the nearby Tesco, where I bought a new SIM-card. First thing I did when I went home was to find my old, antique looking phone and insert the new SIM card into it. Fantastic. No break from a mobile.

This, dear readers is just a little personal example of how technology has affected our lives. I am sure many of you will be familiar with the above scenario. This episode really shook and saddened me.
Ertanch's love-hate relationship with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
I saw a nice picture of my dear friend Beste Sakalli, the poet on Facebook. Where else?! The photo showed her looking at old letters her viewers had sent her during the time she presented the Papatya Seferler programme on Kıbrıs Genc TV. Yes, you heard right. I said letters. Actual, handwritten letters.  This took me back to those good old times before the advent of email. I remembered those letters I wrote to my grandmother and auntie who lived in Lefkoşa. Letters I had hidden deep into the large wicker baskets full of orange and tangerines. It was during the times of communal strife in the sixtees, and an innocent thing like a child’s letter might have put the driver in danger if found.

There was a pen-pal fashion when I was a student in Cyprus. Kids wrote letters to pen pals all over the world. My friends and I chose English girls and boys to write to. The aim was to improve our English. I lamented those times when technology had not yet started to make such a devastating impact on our lives.

Nowadays, children first familiarise themselves with the computer keyboard, before the pencil or pen. I attended a parents’ evening at my 9-year-old granddaughter Melek’s school just before the summer holidays. We were taken to her class. Each child had a drawer, and in each drawer was a 10 inch iPad. These, and of course the internet, are liberally used in lessons. My 5-year-old other granddaughter Jeyda can competently use my desk-top. She can start it, find the CBeebies site, play games, watch videos and listen to music. All well and good. But how many parents nowadays buy their children pens, pencils, drawing brushes, books? Very few. Instead, children’s rooms are full of gadgets: iPods, iPads, iPhones, wii, X-BOX, Kindle, etc are much more favoured.

When I was at school, our most prized possessions were our fountain-pens. We loved these, even though our hands were forever full of black and blue ink marks. The smell of ink is one of my favourite childhood smells. For someone who is educated, the saying in Turkish goes: “S/he has licked lots of ink.”
Kindle e-books reader vs. books
Books are also destined alas to be confined gradually into history. On my train journey to work most people use Kindle or other electronic book readers, rather than books. I am in the minority. A few years ago, my daughter bought me one of these contraptions as a present. I can’t go to sleep if I don’t read. On the night I received my present, while using the Kindle, I felt sleepy. The damn thing fell and hit me squarely on the head. I explained the smallish bump on my head as, “I walked into the door”! The next day the Kindle went back to the place it was purchased. I bought 10 books with the money. I left the place enthusiastically smelling my books. I felt the strange looks of the sales people. I was not bovvered.

I used to love taking pictures. I had a very old Yassica. The other day I re-discovered it. I went straight to Tesco. In my wisdom, I planned to get a 35 mm. film and once again take interesting photos with my tired old camera. The sales girl looked at me as if I presented her with something out of the Paleolithic Age. After an intensive conference with her equally young and puzzled manager, she came and told me that unfortunately they did not sell films for such things. Yes, she actually said “things”.

Our mobiles nowadays perform a multitude of tasks, including acting as a camera. In 10 years, if they start serving tea, I would not be surprised. Two sugars please. As for Facebook, the thing that has lead to my dependence on mobiles. The worst mistake I made was to upload the Facebook application onto my mobile. I keep checking the damn thing. Who wrote what, who put up what pictures. I once uninstalled it. My plan was to look at Facebook only on my desktop and only for a half hour each day. After half an hour I re-installed it on my mobile.
Epiphany onE Puck technology allows your hot tea to power your phone
Look at a friends gathering. After a few minutes chatting, mobiles come out, if they are not already on the pub table. Everyone gets busy checking their emails. But most are checking Facebook. Snaps are taken to be shared on Facebook. My friends and I do this too. It’s not just a young persons’ affliction. In actual fact because Facebook is being used by so many old people like me that youngsters are increasingly dropping it.

Another summer holiday is behind us. I managed to follow the holiday escapades of my friends. On Facebook. Day-by-day. Where they visited, who they saw, where they ate, which beaches they frequented. All were revealed on Facebook. Did I want to follow these in such detail? I think not. But I have had to! Being on holiday is actually the only time I manage to drag myself away from my mobile and Facebook. I take my most basic phone, which is not capable of receiving Internet, thus Facebook with me. I use it for its original purpose. To make and receive phone calls. However I do share a few holiday snaps on Facebook. But only on my return. It’s a miracle how I succeeded in this.

My dear readers, technology is very important. It has made our lives much easier. It has cut down time wasting. We can’t do without it. It has many positive attributes. However, if not used properly it can overtake our lives in devastatingly negative ways.

T-VINE columnist Ertanch Hidayettin is a Cypriot Turk of African heritage. He arrived in the UK in 1970 and qualified as a teacher before choosing a career in local government. He has 30 years experience working for local authorities in various posts and was an Equality Officer for Islington Council before retiring in 2007. Since then he has worked with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE), supporting supplementary schools in North London. He is a community activist and a media commentator, presenting on Kıbrıs Genç TV and writing a regular Turkish column for Kıbrıs Postası.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Ertanj. A very real and at times humorous account (i did chuckle, very engaging) of how technology can affect us including the mental and also the physical side effects that go hand in hand. I have only just recently joined the masses in using fb and I am addicted, so much so that I struggle to motivate myself in the day to day tasks if I don't have access to it. Scary! It does concern me with the increasing use of I Pads in a school environment. I truly believe this makes it harder for our young children to acquire the social skills that they will depend on to communicate confidently which will also have a major affect on their future emotional well being.