Friday, October 14, 2011

BlackBerry Crumble (This is not a recipe)

The world we live in is such that you either own a BlackBerry smartphone, or you know at least one person who does. This being the case, it cannot have escaped your notice that BlackBerries have been experiencing some technical difficulties over the past few days, due to a glitch in the network. Millions of users (who shall be referred to as Blackberrians for simplicity’s sake) across the world have been left stranded as their phones stopped receiving emails and instant messages, and Internet browsing broke down. Several reports are coming in of Blackberrian businessmen shaking their phones in frustration and yelling, ‘Not so smart anymore, are you, you good-for-nothing smartphone?! You might as well actually be a blackberry, then at least I could eat you!’ Hospitals have been inundated with patients suffering from LED-withdrawal symptoms and hallucinations, where they imagine the LED light on their phone to be teasing them with its alluring flashing light.

The outage lasted for three days, and Blackberrians were not impressed. On the first day, there was bewilderment. It was inconceivable that this key to existence, this divine device of unlimited potential, was not performing its usual wonders. On the second day, there was frustration. ‘The joke is over,’ thought Blackberrians forlornly as they woke to another day of cyber-loneliness. ‘If I have to have an actual conversation with someone today, then I’m going to sue RIM for torture.’ And on the third day, there was anger. ‘BlackBerry is rubbish!’ cried Blackberrians in the Twitosphere. ‘It’s time to take a bite out of the forbidden fruit! #AppleEatsBlackberry’.

The timing of this disruption is particularly unfortunate for Research In Motion, who are the manufacturers of BlackBerry smartphones, since it coincides with the death of Steve Jobs. Cue jokes about what Jobs’ first request was when he got to heaven, and how respectful it is of RIM to be honouring his demise with a three-day silence. What is more unfortunate, however, is the fuss that Blackberrians have managed to kick up about the service interruption. One angry customer tweeted, 'Dear Blackberry, u remind me of my EX. Unreliable, a big disappointment & good for nothing.’ Not only is this statement grammatically incorrect, but it is also a wholly unreasonable comparison. Let’s put things in perspective. For one, your BlackBerry has failed you for three days. What about the last 362 days where it has performed flawlessly for you, your every wish being its command? Sadly, it is human nature to forget the good and exaggerate the bad, to the point where we feel justified in extreme measures for trivial situations – the extreme measure here being to switch phones.

Now, stretch your minds back, if you will, to just ten years ago when mobile phones were the size and weight of a shoe, and were still thought to cause cancer. They were held at arms’ length when in use, which was only in emergencies. Gradually, however, we warmed to these odd, unattractive lumps of plastic and metal and realised the advantages of calling and texting. Even our older generations quietly accepted these hi-tech gadgets and the world was at peace (if you can ignore that annoying Nokia ringtone in the background). And then came smartphones and our slow progress in phone technology became an alien invasion of frightening force. Phones became an extension of our hands, their apps replacing several lobes in our brains and their instant messaging services rendering our mouths useless, except for eating and drinking. We became dependent on these contraptions and it’s therefore no surprise that Blackberrians were handicapped by the system crash. To put it bluntly, in five short years, intelligent human beings were reduced to dithering idiots clutching black, plastic rectangles. In true Pavlovian style, they were conditioned to react immediately to the red, flashing light that demanded instant attention whilst all else faded into insignificance.

During the three days that BlackBerries supposedly became useless, the phones could in fact still be used for calling and texting. Really and seriously, this is all you need from a phone. We don’t need to check Facebook and Twitter every five seconds, we don’t need to constantly ask our ‘friends’ what they’re up to, and then proceed to tell them our day’s events in excruciatingly minute detail. To be able to do all that from the palm of your hand is not a luxury, it’s an impediment. We are inhibiting ourselves, relying on technology to do what our brains are capable of and designed for. And before you begin to shake your head at the poor simpleton who wrote this article for not being aware of the delights that a smartphone can bring you, I should mention that said simpleton owns a BlackBerry, and she survived the outage. Perhaps that deserves a t-shirt, or at the very least a Facebook ‘like’ page. But now, if you’ll excuse me, the red light is blinking at me accusingly and you are no longer worthy of my attention.

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