It’s been 50 years since the internet first came into being and I am still struggling trying to detox myself from the online world.
I have downloaded an app that acts like a supervisor in a call centre, one who keeps an eye on you to see if you are working hard trying to sell silly stuff to people, and who encourages you to focus on the job in hand.
Whenever my hand twitches and reaches out for my smartphone, a message pops up telling me to “stop phubbing”. (‘Phubbing’ is ‘phone snubbing’, a constant use of smartphones and lack of human interaction).
If I stay away from the small screen for the duration that I had marked, it rewards me with a virtual tree that it had planted on my behalf.
It is demeaning that I, a grown up person, need help from an app. But, recently musician Jack White slammed smartphones and virtual surfing as an ‘addiction’ and fans are now asked to deposit their phones at the entrance of his concerts.
On October 29, 1969, two guys, a professor of computer science and his graduate student from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) were the first to send out a message, saying “Login”, to Stanford Research Institute, through Arpanet, a predecessor of today’s internet.
The professor however, recently said he “did not anticipate the dark side of the internet would emerge with such ferocity. Or that we would feel an urgent need to fix it.”
The internet connection was barely a line on my 4-G phone and kept dropping. The lack of internet forced my wife and I to speak to each other in the evenings, which was a bit taxing as we had not spoken to each other for a long time
My wife and I had gone to Kodagu (also known as Coorg) a coffee and pepper growing area of Karnataka, for a brief holiday, and there was no internet on the estate where we were staying.
The homestay our friend was managing was kilometres away from habitation and there was no sound of cars honking as in Bengaluru, or any traffic.
The internet connection was barely a line on my 4-G phone and kept dropping. The lack of internet forced my wife and I to speak to each other in the evenings, which was a bit taxing as we had not spoken to each other for a long time.
People for some reason, say it is peaceful to live in natural surroundings, but as soon as we switched off the lights for the night, various creepy sounds started. There was an owl or some thing that went “whoop-whoop’ in the night and thousands of crickets chirping and we were warned about elephants.
Our friend said not to venture out in the night as elephants herds passed through their estate and that at one time a herd tore down a sign pointing to the homestay.
“They are gentle creatures but naughty”, she said.
Our friend in Bengaluru, who loves to travel around India, told us to watch out for leopards as you enter the forest to Coorg. I tried looking up online: ‘What action to take if we see a leopard on the road?’, but there was no internet.
I could not ask our driver, a native Kannadiga, as I did not wish to distract him since the road was narrow and was recently potholed in the rains, and there was a sheer drop on my right. But the scenery was gorgeous.
I needed to get in touch with my editor in Dubai and was thinking of riding to town and using the internet cafe there, when my wife, who is a nerd, showed me how to use VPN (virtual private network) on my phone.
The few days away from the dark side of the internet was refreshing, but I am glad we are back in Bengaluru and I can now raise people’s blood pressure once again with my snarky remarks online.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi