Offline is the new luxury (11)

Time spent on your smartphone: how could you pass it more wisely? And what exactly does it do for you? Each Friday, Irene, who together with Astrid is the founder of Flow, writes about this particular issue.

Sometimes I think to myself: How exactly do I feel about my smartphone? Part of me feels lucky that this thing can do so much and help me with so much. Take the torch, for instance. Genius! Now I’ve always got one to hand. How great is that? And recently I went to Arnhem with my kids for a few days. Usually, they have no interest in walking around such a city, but this time, I gave them my smartphone and asked them to use the map on it to find the way to the museum of modern art. Voila—a journey that would normally have been boring to them was transformed into a fun treasure hunt. And what about the fact that I can easily find a nice restaurant in the neighborhood? That’s definitely a plus, and one that makes me very happy. But on the flipside, there’s also a part of me that sometimes finds all these options a bit too much. Since the new update, for example, my phone tells me—in the morning when I get into my car—the best route to take to work. Without being asked… There it is, on my screen: Take the A5, there is no traffic. And that gives me the jitters. I get the feeling that the phone can see inside my head, because indeed at that precise moment in time, I’m wondering whether I should go via the highway or through town. So needless to say: I don’t really like that so much. Ultimately, this kind of thing will happen more and more in the future. With the advent of the internet of things, it’s natural that I will soon find myself thinking, “Oh yes, we’ve run out of milk” as I walk into the supermarket, and that my smartphone will automatically produce a neat little shopping list (with milk thereon) because it knows what is in my refrigerator. Handy? Yes, sure. A bit creepy? That too.

My colleague Jeannette, who works on our online content, told me that she’s becoming a bit of a pariah at home. Her partner loves all the new options available on the phone and has installed a new lighting system in the house that can only be controlled via an app. So, no more light switches on the wall… The kids think it’s fantastic. But Jeanette on the other hand… Let’s just say she sometimes walks around the house in the dark because she flatly refuses to install the app and have to use her phone every time she wants to turn the lights on or off.  She’s not entirely sure why she has such an aversion to it; all she knows is that she really does not want it. And I understand that. She also won’t use Siri, unlike her entire household who always do everything via voice control. I also never use Siri. Having a stranger call people for me or looking something up for me whenever I ask her to—that’s just a bit too weird, I find.

With all these new options and technology, having more time offline seems to be getting harder than ever. In the future, we’re going to be doing more with our smartphones. And I continue to struggle between what is good and what is not. What about you? Do you embrace all these new options with arms wide open? Or are you not quite sure of them? I’m curious to find out what you think of them.