Lost in cyberspace - and loving every minute of it!

My generation: why we love our Smart lives

My generation: why we love our Smart lives

First published in Features by

“WHAT have you done that for?”

“How are you going to survive?!”

Those were the reactions of my peers when I divulged what I’d done.

I’d deleted my Facebook. And Twitter. And swapped my iPhone for a 10-year-old Nokia brick.

Why?

On Tuesday, October 4. I spoke to my friend in New Zealand, transferred money, looked at holiday pictures, bought a CD and checked cinema times. It was just 8am. I was in bed.

I realised could stay there in my pyjamas and complete most of my daily tasks.

A good or bad thing? I wasn’t sure.

The national news showed crowds forming outside Apple’s flagship store, queuing down Regent Street through the night, a snake of people waiting to purchase the new iPhone 4S.

More than a million models were sold that day alone.

I cast my mind back to the time when apples and blackberries were innocent ingredients in Grannie’s crumble as I struggled to remember how I got by.

What if I needed to check a restaurant’s phone number? Or get directions?

I had the means to do all those things, but it involved planning and some old fashioned patience, along with heavy use of Ye Olde Yellow Pages and - the source of many a domestic - an AA road map.

The impatient consumer is a growing breed. People aren’t patient any more. The old virtue is dying out.

I remember the primitive days of waiting poised at my cassette player, hitting ‘record’ at the crucial point, but these days it’s often downloaded to my iPhone before it’s finished playing.

Before the big change, I was acutely nervous about shedding my safety blanket and bidding farewell to my commuting friend.

Dutch airline KLM is introducing a service where passengers can choose where they sit on flights, by accessing other passengers’ Facebook profiles.

'Meet and Seat' enables travellers to access Facebook to pick their ideal neighbour.

The information available is how someone wants to be perceived.

Attractive (headshot profile pictures), witty (hilarious status), interesting and kooky (I enjoy French films) - you understand.

How was mine interpreted? I dreaded to think and sped up the big delete.

Deleting Facebook is a task in itself. Mr Zuckerberg et al do not want to see you leave!

After 15 minutes, I realise there is no delete option. You merely put your Facebook life on hold.

The photos and questionable wall posts will forever remain in cyber space, patiently waiting for you to reactivate.

Ben will miss you, Amy will miss you… Photos of friends appear and my screen attempts to emotionally blackmail me. But, with steely determination, I click… Your account has been deactivated.

Day 1: Monday October 10. Off goes the alarm and I take a long hard look at my new, old phone. If nothing else, my arms may tone up - it’s twice as large and three times as heavy as its modern replacement.

I board my train. Usually I’d check eBay and emails, but my new travel buddy is Jane Austen (if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it properly!) It was far more enjoyable than scrolling scores of tweets and Facebook updates, which often stimulate an unhealthy mix of public (embarrassing) laughter, frustration then disapproval.

I got through the morning without surfing the smallest wave of the net.

Lunchtime arrived and brought with it my first opportunity to see what I’d been missing. I logged onto a PC and went straight to Hotmail.

My chance to attend an event that night had been and gone, with the tickets snapped up at 9am by a Smartphone-using friend.

I’d failed to reply in time to a question about something I was selling on eBay, leaving the item unsold.

Three press releases had come through, which I could have typed up on the train.

Not the end of the world. These hiccups could have been remedied with a quick email check before leaving home.

Day 2: Tuesday 11. An impromptu phone interview arose, but without my iPhone I couldn’t record it. A stiff neck and five pages of scrawled notes later, I wondered what I was trying to prove.

Day 3: By Wednesday, I was halfway through Pride and Prejudice. But I’d failed to realise a good friend had become engaged at the weekend. I’d missed the Facebook message. So, I bought a card and posted it. Old fashioned and romantic, I was bringing snail mail back.

I met a friend in London. Usually I’d rely on my phone map to guide me. Instead, I checked the map at the station, then passers-by, if they could help me.

A kind man sent me ten minutes down the road - in the wrong direction, leaving me half an hour late.

Day 4: On the train, having left Jane at home, I sneaked envious peeks as my neighbour caught up on last night’s Frozen Planet on her iPlayer app. I pondered my week. I’d missed some good photo opportunities, I yearned after my iTunes, and I’d made life unnecessarily harder.

Like someone quitting a 20-a-day smoking habit, expecting a spare £50 a week, I naively hoped I’d be blessed with the gift of time.

I could pursue my yoga hobby! Read three novels a week!

Yes, I stopped wasting time on Facebook and Twitter but became disorganized, out of touch. And overdrawn. As a recently-graduated student, I rely heavily on my ‘near account limit’ e-mail. Which doesn’t work if you read it 12 hours too late.

I had less free time, in fact. Everything now took longer.

If I need something quickly, I usually order it from my Amazon app, knowing it will arrive within 24 hours. Instead, I take an hour’s detour searching for a birthday present.

I was spending money on newspapers, losing money on eBay and missed a night out after leaving the Whatsapp (a free messaging app) group chat which my friends use to make arrangements.

I took to the streets to find out what Hillingdon’s attitude is towards the Smartphone.

Three-quarters of the 20 people I asked owned one, with iPhone the most popular, then Blackberry and one Samsung Galaxy.

All but one of those Smartphone owners also had Facebook and/or Twitter.

“It’s annoying but addictive,” said Sam, 20, from Ruislip. “It’s just for people to be nosey!” But he won’t be deleting his Facebook anytime soon.

“It’s great when you’re bored,” he added.

As Facebook is often seen as a social platform for the younger generation, I was interested when Gerry Watts, 72, from Uxbridge, told me: “We’ve got a new grandchild in Australia, so we look at pictures of her and our daughter.”

Day 5: The experiment is over and I was emotionally reunited with my iPhone.

I wasn’t tempted back by Facebook. I was happy I’d begun receiving phone calls rather than generic blanket messages.

I am back on Twitter. It is my main source of news. It’s easier than unfolding a newspaper on the crowded 07.35 to Paddington – and people can’t read over your shoulder.

I check my bank account daily, my electronic calendar reminds me of birthdays and meetings.

On Saturday, I got 20% off some shoes thanks to O2’s Priority Moments app - absolute clarification that my iPhone is a positive addition in my life.

Technology is not something to be scared of. It’s convenient and, having the world at my fingertips, certainly makes life easier.

Facts: Facebook is available in 70 different languages. Its 800m-strong user population uploads more than 250m photos a day, while 350m access the site from a mobile device.

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