Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Whiteberry Culture

Class this session will be very different from what it has always been.

A lot of reasons could justify this statement, such as that it is our last session and everybody wants to strive for the best possible grades or that my classmates are now more future-oriented – having just come back from IT. These reasons even have their own merit, but then – I make that statement with something else in mind.

Class this session will be very different from what it has always been, because almost everybody now has a Blackberry. Well, maybe I should make that a bit more general because of people like me who still refuse to join the bandwagon. Class this session will be very different from what it has always been, because almost everybody now has mobile Internet access.

I remember when I was in Part One. 3G was in the not-so-distant future of Nigerian telecommunications, and Symbian S60 was something only geeks talked about. Blackberries, Apples? As far as most Nigerians were concerned, they were fruits – and nothing more!

I was one of the first people to adopt Symbian S60, with my classic candy-bar styled Nokia 6600 of blessed memory. I ultimately fell in love with the phone, what with the ability to multi-task, and use a myriad of free apps such as Call Cheater and Call Manager (which enabled you to get out of conversations you did not want to have and block calls from people you would rather not talk to in the first place).  And of course, I could send and receive email!

However, back then – most of my friends used phones that were just that: phones; they could make and receive calls, send and receive texts, and very few of them could browse with the sluggish EDGE/GPRS networks.

That was then.

Now, mobile Internet access is so commonplace – it is even taken for granted.

You know, the other day – I met a guy just outside a class who needed a Word document I had on my phone. After trying without success to send the file via Bluetooth, he suggested that I forward it to his email address. Pronto, I fired up Nokia Email, attached the file and sent him the mail. In my first wonder of year 2011: he got, opened, and edited the file on his phone in under five minutes, forwarded the edited version (via email) to a friend in his room who printed the document, biked down, and delivered it in under *wait for this* fifteen minutes from when I first sent him the file!

It was surprising to see that other people were catching on to the mobile Internet ‘thingi’ too! That could not have happened back when I was in Part One. Attachments? They were ‘things’ sized 250kb that took you roughly 10 minutes to upload. Email? It was what you had to brave insults and oppressive heat in cybercaf├ęs in order to send.

There are a lot of good sides to the mobile Internet culture... Instant Messaging, the ability to recourse to Wikipedia in the heat of an argument, the ability to google that difficult topic just before you got picked out by your Professor to provide an answer to his question... Good sides abound!

Wait, did I say Instant Messaging? Now that is one of the sides to mobile Internet that ‘kinda’ make me fear for the future.

In my own estimation, conversation is one of the core things that make us human. Yet, it is becoming harder to carry on a real conversation with a young person these days. Most statements you make will be punctuated with ‘pings’ from their mobile phones. And that is if you even bother to make the statements at all – because most people cannot stand talking to someone who only manages a nod or two while furiously typing away at a phone’s keypad.

Yes, and IM has even changed the way ‘friending’, dating, courting etc is done. Lots of guys prefer to ‘talk’ to ladies over BBM/Nimbuzz/Whatsap etc rather than in person – because it feels a lot more comfortable. And ‘woe’ betide guys who do not use Blackberries – even when they use C6’s and E5’s.
Whatever happened to the larger percentage of communication, the non-verbal one?

Maybe I should not really be afraid for the future. Maybe I should join the school of thought that submits that this is all a fad – which will all pass.

Well, till that time when it passes, on my authority as Class Representative of the Part Five Class of Mechanical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University – I make the following declaration. All lecturers should henceforth note that ‘boring’ lectures will be rewarded with BBM/Nimbuzz group chats right under their noses!


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