Google Made Me Stupid

I have an important client meeting next day morning in Mumbai, about 2.5 hours of drive from my house. While I am preparing for the client meeting, my kids, and wife have a fight over their use of internet. I join the fight and am trying to talk to my boys how they should be moderate in their use of internet and in that moment actually change the pin on their handheld device that they use to access internet at home.

After a while, I think I should change the pin on my android phone too and do just that before I hit the bed. I get up in the morning and all hell breaks loose as I can’t remember the pin I set last night for my phone, while I remember the one I set for boys device!!

It’s like my boys telling me — yeah dad! Serves you right! Now you walk the talk & use your internet moderately.

Its 5 AM and I have to leave the house at 6 AM to reach the client meeting on time. I have not even written down the address as I was just going to use Google Maps to reach the destination and now it’s too late do anything. 75 unsuccessful attempts later I just decide to walk out of the house with the phone in my hand. This device is now suddenly useless while I still receive calls and that does not look enough for me.

I know the road up to a particular point and once I reach there next level of challenges begin. Now when I am asking people around for the designated address they want more details, what sector, which block etc. It’s driving me crazy as I am like oh shit if only I had written down the address; another 15 attempts to remember the pin go in vain. I end up borrowing the phone of an auto rickshaw driver to call my wife; he was really sympathetic towards me knowing my plight. Now I have the address written down and voila, the next person I ask tells me how I should drive to the client place. I finally arrive at the defined location just in time for the meeting.

It’s been more than 5 hours now that I have been awake and I haven’t done these “tasks” on my phone — check email, check what’s app, make calls, check sms, use maps, book a cab and I am missing all of that. I am wondering when was the last time I was like this when I would wait at some place and actually notice people & things around rather than be buried in my phone. When was the last time that I actually rolled down my windows and asked for directions & trusted the stranger on the road than the stranger in the phone?

As I started to think about this I realized how out city life has this invisible layer of everything Google. It’s scary when you think that Google knows where you are, how you got there and many other things about your everyday life. I also realized that all of us seem to be lost in this “virtual” world so much that we have stopped appreciating the “real” world for what it is.

I guess credit goes to Google and its engineers for making technology so addictive that it’s hard to imagine life without it. But I realized that this sense of urgency that the technology builds in us is a false one. In this particular day I was able to go about my day perfectly fine without actually having too many hic-cups and actually felt much calmer. The most important aspect of disconnecting or forced to disconnect from technology was the fact that “being present” in the moment became much easier with these distractions taken care of.

As I sit down to write this in a cafe I am again attempting to remember the pin but alas. I have other places to go to in Mumbai and am now wondering without being able to book a cab how will I navigate? Will I be able to find the next destination based on “crowd sourced” information on the go? It’s been a mini adventure of sorts in this urban jungle so far and I am actually starting to enjoy this forced detox. My attempts to connect with the Wi-Fi at the cafe are also futile as it sends the OTP to my phone!! And there is no other option that the attendant is aware of to grant me access to Wi-Fi.

We all have come to depend on technology just the same way we are dependent on electricity. We take it for granted and expect it to be always on and ready to serve us. On these occasional situations when it refuses to dance to our tunes, we get frustrated and struggle to find alternatives. But trust me if we do this every now and then we might come up with better options to solve the technological challenges around us –as sometimes stepping away makes the hazy picture clearer.

The drive to Mumbai this time was very memorable because I did actually look outside and soak in the pre monsoon weather, noticed the clouds engulfing the hills and the changes in the weather as I drove into Mumbai. And yes I did not stop to take a selfie and post it on the social media! Though yes I am writing this piece and yes will feel peaceful when this is on social media.

Well and the only solution that finally worked was to do a “factory” reset on my phone but since most of my data was backed up on my Google account it came right back to me!! So Google don’t worry I still love you!!