18 October, 2011

The Bratberry Blackout

When The Blackberry Plague struck last week it was, in a nutshell, DRAMAS.  For about three days the Blackberry users of the universe were suddenly disconnected from their fruity social lives and thrown back into the more basic days of the earlier part of this century, when phones were just for texting and if you wanted a different mobile from your mates you had to buy a themed cover. And OH what calamity ensued.

Poor Blackberry users could only access social networking sites via their computers, laptops and iPads, which was heartbreakingly primitive. Blackberry messenger (BBM) contacts were thrown into a pit of despair as their usual and instant means of contacting each other vanished. WhatsApp became WhatsAppeningggggg?! And worse still, we couldn’t Google Frankie Cocozza from the comfort of our sofas. We had to GET UP. 

It was all over the internet within minutes. #Blackberryfail was trending globally, Lord Sugar was on the 6 o’clock BBC news discussing if Blackberry could EVER recover from a corporate failure of such magnitude and BBees everywhere endured ongoing ‘absence’ from each other’s lives. As a Blackberry user myself, I experienced first-hand the side effects of this epic disconnection from the smart social sphere and I can honestly say....

It. Wasn’t. That. Bad. 
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely experienced mild level dissatisfaction and groused about it, sending *jokingly* accusing tweets (from my laptop) to Blackberry’s HQ and yes I felt the repercussions, but in a world where someone’s city can be destroyed by an earthquake in seconds or a tsunami can wash away your livelihood forever, are we really kicking up such a fuss at the temporary absence of one of the First World’s most blessed luxuries?

As much as I embrace social networking – and indeed endorse it for a living – I would like to think I still have my priorities in order. The day I start having a hissy fit because I can’t check my Facebook from the cubicle of a club or because I need to actually ring someone for instant contact, is the day I don’t deserve to have access to this remarkable social world. 

However, I was bemused to see so many people genuinely angry at Blackberry’s puppet masters and seemingly seriously unable to function without their little pocket pals. Yes it’s annoying when the technology we have come to depend on so heavily lets us down – even Mother Teresa would’ve been disgruntled had she suddenly been unable to BBM the Pope about how fit Gary Barlow is #xfactor – but to be honest the genuine anger and bitterness of some people that I witnessed on Twitter over those few days was deplorable. I was ashamed of my culture and the spoilt Bratberry users we have become.

#Bratberry fail
I do realise that for businesses and VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE the BB fail would have caused them to struggle a little more than usual and perhaps even made everyday commerce near-on impossible in some instances – but the last time I checked, that’s how life goes.  And if that’s our biggest catastrophe, I think we have it pretty sweet. To illustrate my point, here are some of my favourite #Blackberryfail tweets:

•    @InStyle_Anna Refusing to pay my Blackberry bill this month for sure #blackberryfail  

•    @rachelannmorris ahhhh #BLACKBERRYFAIL you promise so much yet deliver so little

•    @tashabourne The one chance a week I get to actually sleep enough and I have to get up early to go to Carphone Warehouse #Blackberryfail

You had to get up EARLY?? WOE.IS.YOU. Refusing to pay your bill? How aboutthe people who can’t afford a meal, let alone the expense of something so far removed from their deprived living it would terrify them. Paying our Blackberry bills is a privilege. And as for “delivering so little” – unless you were born into a pot of gold, accustomed to a world of technology that NEVER EVER fails, with a silver spoon up your A...get a GRIP.

Some of the above comments to me demonstrate a genuine 
inability to appreciate that although Blackberry “failed” us for a few days last week; by enlarge the global technology we are so fortunate to rely on today delivers to us every second of every day for the majority of our lives, making every aspect of them easier – work, relationships, social interests – we’re living in HD thanks to this fantastic intelligence. 

Do the above people forget so quickly all that their Smartphones give them? If your Mum cooks you a hot dinner every day of your life and one day burns it, do you call her a failure? We are all entitled to rant and experience aggravation at these mishaps, but there is a difference between blithely joining in the uproar (as to be expected, everyone loves a good vent) and actually genuinely getting a face on for three days. It wouldn’t hurt to remember that if like me you own and use a Smartphone regularly, then you live in the most privileged of societies in the most amazing of worlds. 

Back to Black

If anything, I enjoyed the mini-meltdown of my Smartphone’s intelligence, because it gave me the opportunity to remember I had a mind of my own. And what was most significant to me during the Blackout is how much of said mind had adapted itself to smart tech. Here is what I discovered:

1. I Tweet therefore I Think

When unable to Tweet so readily, I realised how much I now think in Tweet form. I found myself waiting at the tram stop, my hands unsure what to do with themselves, thinking “god that man looks pissed for 8am #jealous” and automatically mentally reducing it into 140 characters.
But the thought would materialise and then get stuck in twitter limbo, where over the course of the few days, a whole host of them gathered. The Tweets that got away. Profound capsules of thought never to be heard. 

Without wanting to go all George Orwell, what had become Text-speak has now progressed into Twit-speak and it was frustrating to have these hash-tagged 140 character musings floating around in my mind and no outlet for them. The problem with the immediacy of Twitter is, if you can’t vent your profound Twit at that very moment in time, the thought has no value further down the line. The timeline has changed, its yesterday’s news, no-one cares that you had a hilarious bus anecdote YESTERDAY. 

The thinking in hash-tags is what really alarmed me. It woke me up to the fact that I actually say ‘hashtag’ out loud in normal conversation *eurgh*. It might not be the newspeak Orwell envisaged, but I’m turning into a Twit. The next time I say “hashtag awakward” out loud in a social situation – throw my Blackberry off a cliff. And then me. 

2. Friends are like stars...visible in a Blackout

 The people who are REAL friends and acquaintances i.e. not just social-networking ‘contacts’ will #ShockHorror find other means of reaching you. Those people on your BB contacts who claim to be sad when you’re no longer there – did they pick up the phone or telegram you instead?
Only a handful of the people I would usually tweet, Facebook and BBM found other ways of contacting me – good old-fashioned text being the obvious starting point...and those people are the real people in my life. There even when the lights go out. It was a good to highlight even for a moment that even in this modern world of social technology; we can still maintain traditional friendships and relationships that have more sincerity than anything Blackberry can offer. 

3. Sometimes...a break is nice

Although of course I won’t claim I wouldn’t miss my BB if it was gone for good. Of course I would. When I lost my late Purple Blackberry Curve on a beach in Croatia, it was merely a matter of days before I had replaced it with a brand new shiny version despite having no money and being in a foreign land – what the heart wants, the heart gets!

However, when I was prevented from constantly plugging away at it during the Blackout, I realised that being unplugged had its benefits. I got things done at twice the speed. I could cook without getting grease all over my handse. I could wake up at 3am without being alarmed by a little red light demanding my attention. All of which felt pretty humane. I have spoken before about the inability of the modern world to switch off, and this was a blessed break. Even if we have to be forced to do it, don’t you think sometimes it’s good for us?


To conclude, Blackberry are now ferociously trying to make up for last week’s Blackout by offering free apps to its users and their recovery from the blip is definitely going to make interesting observation, but for now I will say that one sour blackberry isn't the end of the pie, and I hope most will have found the silver lining in the experience, and been reminded of just how sweet we do have it.