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A young woman using a smartphone. Image Credit: Agency

There was a time when you were judged by the company you kept. The kind of friends you chose said a lot about you. We were often warned by our parents to be careful about befriending a particular person as they could see this friendship not being in your best interests. Their advice was often ignored as we thought we knew best.

Now, people are being judged by the phone they possess. This is supposedly more relevant among young adults who are into the dating game. According to a survey of 1,502 singletons, how you maintain your phone, the ringtone you have set and the phone cover you have chosen can impact first impressions. The study states that a damaged screen is a major put-off. Apparently, a broken screen can indicate that you are either careless or unconcerned about appearances or, even worse, financially unstable!

A young woman recounts going out with a guy to a party and being horrified and embarrassed when he pulled out his phone to take a group selfie. The screen was badly damaged and, according to her, so was her image in front of her friends.

Brand matters too. A United States study finds that only 65 per cent of iPhone users would be willing to go on a date with Android users. Most people I have found stay true to a particular brand, upgrading to a newer model from time to time, but this makes sense nowadays with incredible offers of exchanges and getting money back for your older model.

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When I read such surveys, I am amazed at how shallow young people appear to be. But is this the correct picture? These surveys might have targeted teenagers who are more impressionable than older people perhaps. I know for a fact that the younger generation does change phones more often than older people. The recipients of the older discarded models are usually parents who are perfectly content with the model they have, which has been mocked by their tech-savvy offspring for its antiquity.

If a parent makes the mistake of demurring and saying that their phone works perfectly, they are confronted by recollection of the numerous times they have consulted the youngsters for advice on a malfunctioning device. Determined to make their parents up to date with the latest technology, children sometimes present the latest model on occasions such as birthdays. The gift is viewed with trepidation as the older generation contemplates the challenge of using this formidable looking device just as they have got used to the one they have. They now have to steel themselves for a lesson that will be fraught with frayed tempers and will make them realise that their powers of concentration and ability to imbibe information are severely impaired.

I have seen many of these lessons end tragically with the “teacher” showing little patience and questioning the mental ability of the pupil who, eventually, declares that they don’t want the present if it involves demeanment.

There are, however, some older people who stick to their guns and refuse to switch to a newer model despite facing flak from their children or even friends. Their motto is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Their logic is that if the phone allows them to make and receive calls, it’s good enough for them.

But I must admit that every time I have upgraded my phone, I have done so under peer pressure or after listening to an animated discussion on a new model. If a device can generate so much buzz and emotion, surely it deserves to be tried out? Then the search begins for a patient teacher to unravel the mysteries of this wondrous gadget without making me feel I am mentally retarded.

Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.