Tag Archives: Technology

All for the two blue ticks from hell

Chalo ji, ek naya syapa start ho gaya hai. C’mon, you don’t know ‘syapa’? Okay. My dear body-in-Bhogal-but-mind-in-Berkeley friend, a nightmare has begun, bro! I had gone blue in the face telling everyone that the colour blue would someday ring a death bell for all of us, but no one believed me. Now, it has taken a firang tech company to make you all go, ‘Holy Sh**, what is this?’

Yeah, yeah, I’m referring to nothing but the two blue marks from hell, the ones that indicate that you’ve actually read someone’s whatsapp message on your phone. Till now you were in a state of bliss, you had quit Blackberry because of the wretched ‘R’ (for read) that would replace the less feared ‘D’ (for delivered) in a second, moved to Whatsapp because over here, the two grey ticks could only ­indicate that a message had been delivered to your phone, but not necessarily read by you…so life was all cool. Your boyfriend/­girlfriend was back to being in love with you, your boss was all understanding, your wife didn’t turn into a Durga avatar every now and then, your parents didn’t freak out all so often. Then suddenly, the grey turned to blue. And chaos descended.

whatsapp-blue-ticks

Don’t Let the Whatsapps Blue Ticks Make You Stressed.

All the ‘I love you baby’ is soon going to turn into ‘Are you ­ignoring me? You read my ­message two hours back. Am I not important for you anymore?’ You’d no longer be able to tell the monster boss that the urgent mail he asked for got sent four hours later because you had missed reading his instructions on Whatsapp. Chat group ke har stupid forwarded joke pe nakli ka LOL karna padega…uff.  There’s panic in the air. Dil se bad dua nikal rahi hai. Morons. Don’t they have any worthwhile ­innovations to spend their ­creative genius on? Maybe not. But, now that the stress is here, can the calmness tips be far behind?

1. Take a deep breath

Inhale from one nostril and exhale from the other. Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with Whatsapp. Style maarne ke liye tha. You see, any advice on ­calmness that starts with deep breathing has a greater ­acceptability, internationally. Coming back to the point, before the two blue ticks give you a ­nervous breakdown, allow me to take your memory back to ­another epidemic that had struck our Whatsapp universe not so long ago.sonal-kalra-a-calmer-you-column

Remember the ­life-threatening disease called ‘last seen at…’? Millions died of it, countless relationships were buried in mass graves amid shouting matches. The doctors worked relentlessly on finding a cure. All of us, for once, left cast, creed, religion, nationality, behind and  prayed. Together, we found the solution, and the option to switch off the ‘last seen’ stamp magically appeared in the privacy settings. We just need to have faith in life.

For those in tearing hurry, there’s always the cheat-route of ­switching off your internet ­connectivity, reading the ­­message, and then switching it on without clicking on the ­specific Whatsapp message. For others, the net gurus and ­spiritual tech babas will soon start posting solutions on the forums. Vishwaas rakhein, kripa aayegi.

2. Ignore if you must

You know what, the biggest problem is that most of us ­mistake being ‘online’ as ‘being available to chat’. These are two different things. The invention of all these messenger services and free chat applications does not mean that a sword is now hung on your head that you have to respond to each and every message anyone decides to push your way. And NO, it’s not rude to not reply immediately even after you’ve evidently read a ­message, because the other ­person sent it out knowing their own convenience and situation, not yours. It’s the same mistake that people make ever since mobile phones came into our lives.

If the phone rings, most people immediately pause ­whatever they are doing — ­having a meal, listening to music, watching a film, talking face-to-face with someone – and receive the call. It’s like an ­obligation for us to give priority to a phone call, because someone invented an instrument that we carry everywhere in our hands. Well, that someone did it for good reasons, not to add to the stress in your life and make you a slave of perceptions about what the caller will think if you won’t respond to a call or message right away.

Unless it’s an ­emergency, you always have the right to decide when to respond to someone reaching out to you. Don’t turn every chat-ping into an emergency. You paid for your cellphone, remember? And don’t let your friends give you grief about not responding ­immediately to their every ­message even after reading it. If they are friends, they would respect your value for your time and know that your bond with them is beyond the two blue ticks.

3. For the sender

This one’s for those of you whose messages will be read but still the other person would not reply. You know what, it’s OKAY. Please don’t be a hyper-sensitive drama queen and rush into drawing meaning out of every ­unresponded chat message. The other person might just be ­genuinely caught up with ­something and might want to reply at peace and not for the heck of it, in a hurry.

Do ­remember that in life, if someone really wanted to ignore you, they would not wait for a chat feature to indicate it. Your gut would tell you. So, don’t let your sensitivity pressure your friends into ­finding out ways to evade your messages. It’s stressful for them, it’s stressful for you, too, to keep waiting. The moment it starts to bug you that your pings are not getting replied to, don’t drive  yourself crazy to check the phone. Just chuck the phone. Go for a nice walk. And yeah, take a deep breath. Inhale from one ­nostril and exhale from the other. Whatever.

Sonal Kalra can never aspire to become a brand ambassador for technology. Maybe cellphone companies would pay her someday to quit writing.

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A Calmer You: change your password. Right now!

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Errr… may I please keep it as password123? Just this one time? “Ma’am, please try to remember,” said the IT guy, adjusting his nerdy glasses. He looked as frustrated as the class teacher of a child who, despite being paid special attention through the year, has failed yet again in the exam. I stared back at him, not knowing what to say. ‘Ek baar try the same with the first letter uppercase,’ I mumbled. He keyed it in, shook his head, and looked around hopelessly.  ‘You had only asked me to keep changing the password,’ I chided.

A Calmer You change your password. Right now
“Yes, because it’s good for security. But, I had also asked you to ‘remember’ the new password,” he snapped back. A colleague, who has recently joined and was clearly unaware of the extent of my hopelessness when it comes to such things, intervened: ‘Why don’t you use the ‘forgotten password’ option?’ The IT geek growled back with the pent up frustration of not getting enough sleep all through his four years in the engineering college, “That is what we are trying. She does NOT remember the answer to the forgotten password question!” The colleague looked at me incredulously, the IT guy hopelessly, while I stared at the computer screen, shamelessly. ‘You see, the answer to the forgotten password question is supposed to be the name of my pet. Now, I had pets of various breeds and kinds in different periods of my life. Then there was the neighborhood cat that was technically not my pet but I had kinda adopted her, and named her. She used to come for milk every evening,’ I started and the emotionless descendant of Bill Gates hastily got up. “ma’am, I’m going. Had this been our internal server, I would have retrieved the password. Please talk to customer care.” The colleague fled too. And I was left with the screen that said, “Sorry, the user id/password is wrong”. ‘At least tell me which one of the two is wrong,’ I wanted to cry out. But, what’s the point? This is all done for ‘security’. Well, I am secure. So secure that even I can’t access my account anymore. And so, so sick of passwords. I know by now you think I’ve lost it, but please meri baat suno. I’m sure there are at least some people reading this who have the same disorder of not being able to remember passwords. And our suffering is compounded a thousand times by the so called ‘security regulations’. Now sample this:

1. The password can’t be too simple. It can’t be too short. It can’t be too similar to the user id. It can’t be too similar to the old password. It can’t be just letters of the alphabet. Basically as rightly put by some victim of this security torture, your password must be combination of  ‘at least 11 upper-lowercase letters, a numeral, a special character, lyrics of a Himesh Reshammiya song, the first letter of the surname of your maid, the tail of a lizard, a zero to signify your loser status and the blood of a virgin.’ Phew! I sometimes wonder if I’d secretly prefer my account getting hacked.

2.  In order to let the IT guys sleep peacefully at night and catch up for all the rest lost while formulating policies, the password needs to be changed often, sometimes as often as some people I know take bath. Kya yaar, at least let me be the one to decide if I want to change it. What if I’m secretly in love with my password and never want to change it? Don’t stop me from accessing my bloody account. There are anyway hardly any secrets in there. Heck, if I could remember secrets, I would remember passwords.

3. The passwords need to be different for different accounts and services. Fair enough. But this leaves me with the requirement of two dozen freakin’ passwords, all conforming to the above regulations. Clearing job interviews has been easier. Thinking of complicated passwords is, well, complicated.

4. Some people (read I) are so, well, innocent, that they don’t know the answers to the trick questions to retrieve forgotten passwords. What if I don’t have a favourite movie? What if I didn’t have a pet? What if I don’t know my mother’s maiden name? What if my mother never married? I’m getting into a depression here, do you see? To make matters worse, the retrieved password is sent to the email. And what is needed to access that? You got it! ‘A combination of 11 letters, a numeral, special character, blah, blah and blah’.

5. Because it is important to ensure that it is a human being and not a metal-hearted robot trying to retrieve the password, I am also expected to read a passcode phrase and type it back, as it is. Except that some sadist who hated humankind devised the most illegible font for that phrase. Not only do I have to tilt my head to unimaginable degrees to read it, every effort has been made to ensure that the letters look so grainy that your eyesight goes for a toss in trying to tell a ‘o’ from a ‘e’. Check this out. Ha ha.

6. Some genius in a business suit also once warned me that I should never, ever write my password anywhere. Because that’s the easiest way for it to get stolen. Toh phir suno, tie waale bhai, that if I die, no loved one will be able to get access to the wealth I have generated all these years. In fact, I myself will not be able to use my own wealth soon, because my bank has recently written to me congratulating  me, and themselves, for having completely shifted to e-banking. No cutting of trees any longer to make cheque books and print statements. Now everything will be electronic. With ‘three tier robust security ensured by encryption and several password layers’. I fainted.

Sonal Kalra swears she can listen her computer going ‘bwaaaahaaa’ every time she enters a password. Which psychiatrist will take up her case? Will she need a password to pay?

A Calmer You: no instant reply equals instant stress

So, Sonal, I have a topic to suggest for your column,” said a usually reticent Divya in my team. “The other day I sent you a message asking if I could report a little late for work,” she went on. “And you didn’t reply for a few minutes. In those few minutes, I was horribly stressed that you are upset about something.”
Arrey, but I was busy with something and didn’t see your message immediately,’ I said. “Yeah, I know. But it does lead to tremendous stress if the boss doesn’t reply instantly,” she said. I joked with her about how she’s making me feel like a guilty boyfriend. And then I recalled a conversation I’d overheard in a restaurant just a day before.

technology-and-relationships
Would you stop judging me already? I don’t eavesdrop, the guys were too loud. Well, okay. I eavesdropped. But suno toh sahi, it was a damn interesting conversation.
Jaan le rakhi hai yaar Richa ne,” said one guy to his friend. “I love her and all that. But she’s constantly on my case if I’m not available online 24X7. She keeps a track of my last seen time on Whatsapp and gives me such grief if I’ve been online otherwise but haven’t responded to her message yet.” “Girls are like that only,” replied his genius friend, shaking his head.
Well, I don’t know if girls are like that, but technology surely is like that these days. Overwhelming, and overbearing. Before the instant messaging monsters invaded our civilisation, we were okay with not hearing from our loved ones all through the day. But in a bid to outdo each other, telecom companies have taken slogans like ‘stay connected’ too literally, and sadly so have we.
In the day and age when instant noodles and pre-mixed coffee is called a meal without blinking an eyelid, instant replies on SMSs, BBMs or Whatsapp have also become a measure of how much you care for the person on the other end.
And ironically it has become so justified to feel upset about why someone did not respond to our message immediately that the other person is left with no choice but to act guilty and defensive, without realising that there is no such rule in life that says you don’t care for the sender if you do not respond within 7 seconds of reading a message. Then there are BBM or Whatsapp groups where copy pasted jokes arrive from all directions at the speed of missiles and everyone in the group is supposed to ‘lol’ well in time to be safely considered a social animal.
In some ways, this stress of always being available also manifests itself in the way we respond to phone calls. You could have sat down to eat a meal, which by the way, still remains the primary thing you are living and working so hard for, and the phone rings. Immediately, the meal takes a backseat and you either get up to take a call or now since cell phones are almost appended to our bodies like an extended limb, you just take the call there and then.
If you don’t and there is an emotional loved one on the other side, your entire day can go in making amends. There is a colleague who starts most of his conversations with me by complaining about how I didn’t take his call the last time. Once I tried telling him politely that till the day I spend on buying a cell phone and pay its monthly bills, it’s I who will decide when to pick up a call, not the caller. He took truck loads of offence but thankfully the grumbling ceased for a while.
My point is simple. Technology is a facilitator, not the master of our life. If the state of our relationships is going to be dictated by the stress of how much we are making use of that technology, then we’ll only end up tying ourselves in knots. If you are one of those who happens to get all worked up about how your friend has not responded instantly to your message, consider this:
1. By getting constantly upset that your boyfriend isn’t responding to your messages at the speed of light, you are not showing love, you are showing insecurity.
2. Frequent display of insecurity will not make him come closer to you, it’ll make him Google for ways to hide his online status from you.
3. Hiding his online status just to maintain peace in the relationship is actually making him lie to you, something that he wouldn’t want to do if you were not this hyper about instant responses.
4. Lying in a relationship weakens its very foundation, further fuelling insecurity.
5. Finally, there is no proof to support the notion that relationships based on two people constantly connected to each other are stronger than those where each person gets space to breathe.
On the contrary, the latter may just be stronger since there’s no stress to lie or keep defending oneself.

Here’s some unsolicited gyan for Richa, jisne jaan le rakhi hai. Do remember that the definition of love got written ages before human beings learned to even spell technology. Don’t suddenly make advancements in technology the basis for a thing whose basis can only be trust, and nothing else. The day your boyfriend gets the confidence to say ‘I was chilling out with friends’ rather than saying, the phone was in the pocket and I didn’t hear the beep, he’d be in a much secure space in the relationship. And the day you learn to chill out with your own friends without being under the stress of checking your phone every second for his reply, you’d be in bliss too. Try toh karo.

Sonal Kalra has discovered that by simply blocking a contact for a few minutes and then unblocking them, you can effectively hide the ‘last seen’ time-stamp from whatsapp.
Also if you read a message on BBM and without touching the trackball or pressing any key you press the red, call disconnect key, you can read a message without the dreaded, R, appearing next to it.

Chalo, kuchh toh kaam ka seekha aaj.

A Calmer You: You’re missing the picture, dude

Are you too busy clicking or tweeting to enjoy the real thing? This world is full of one category of people. Experts. Everyone has some advice to give to others, ekdum free. That’s why I say it’s important that you become an expert in sifting out the meaningful advice from routine gyan that floats around. Anyhow, I’m not any less in trying to be a self-styled expert, so I gave some unsolicited advice to a guy last week. He didn’t like it.

A Calmer You -You are missing the picture dude
Well, that’s his problem but I want you all to tell me if I was wrong in what I said. Hua yeh ke I went to a friend’s place and met his cousin who had just returned from a vacation in Singapore. He was excitedly telling her about his visit to Sentosa islands, which is famous, among other things, for being among the top places in the world to watch the most beautiful sunset. And then he started showing us photos that he’d clicked, of the sun setting behind the sea. Beautiful photos indeed….and five hundred and seventy two in number.
‘How long did the sunset last?’ I asked him. ‘A few minutes,’ he replied and added, ‘after that you can’t really see much because it starts to get dark.’ ‘So, are you going to go back to Singapore to watch the sunset, because you missed it?’, I asked. ‘Huh, I just came back after watching it,’ he replied. ‘No you didn’t, your camera did. When are YOU going to watch it?’ I asked, and he got offended. What followed was a long debate over how photos are also important for memories etc but my point, my friend, is simple. What fun are second hand memories when you’ve got so busy in creating them that you missed the real thing? A similar sentiment was echoed by my colleague Damini, who recently went to Turkey and attended the famous night opera in a picturesque, old Roman amphitheatre, with full moon in the backdrop. ‘All I kept trying was to click the perfect photo, and before I knew it, the opera was over,’ she said.

A lot of us, me included, similarly make the mistake of getting too busy tweeting when we see something exciting. When India played Sri Lanka in the cricket World Cup final in April, excitement ran high and I was tweeting like mad at every ball. After a while, I was trending on Twitter lists in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore but you know what, I missed out on most exciting moments of the match. Because I got too busy in thinking about the perfect and funniest tweet to post. Kya yaar. Technology was supposed to serve us. We didn’t even notice when we became its slaves, and started clicking and tweeting our life away on gadgets. I’ve decided to, henceforth, set these three rules for myself, to claim my life back.

If you see sense in it, take the advice.

1. Stop looking at life as ‘moments to capture for Facebook’: It’s cool that some nerd invented these media that make it so easy to share our fun moments with friends. But surely not at the cost of taking the whole fun out of them, no? I’ve seen young parents, who attend the school function of their kids, rush closer to the stage with mobile phones or video cameras as soon as their child’s performance begins. All these dads and moms must remember that watching their child’s entire performance through the lens is only as good as watching a TV programme, not a live act. Why not let your eyes and heart remember the moment?

2. Set a limit for how many photos you’ll take and STOP at that: I have nothing against taking beautiful pictures that form cherished memories, but the next time I go for a vacation and see something spectacular, I’ll take twenty photos and no more. With conventional cameras, we at least used to stop when the filmroll got over. Thanks to digicams and mobile phones (technology again!!), we just don’t know where to stop. Tell me honestly, how many times have you actually seen all the ten thousand photos you took of the cow on the village road in Rajasthan with senti tears in your eye? Bas karo. Tourism is not a punishment and its not as if you have to submit a homework album with every damn thing you spotted. Leave the camera in the hotel sometime and go for a walk. DO that.

3. Finally, I’ve decided to set an hour of ‘unplugged time’ for myself everyday: I will not touch any electronic gadget in that one hour. And I’ll still go out and try to see something beautiful, without the tension of capturing it or worrying about missing a call. Don’t you now try to give me the ‘phone is for our safety’ argument. Human beings used to go out of homes even when mobile phones were not invented…and came back alive. And puhleez, I love twitter and facebook too but don’t tweet every waking moment of your life away. Because it’ll somewhere take your mind away from what’s actually happening. I remember a joke I read somewhere about a girl whose friend asks her what her first kiss was like. She hesitates for a while, and then says, ‘Hold on, let me check. I must have tweeted about it.’ Had ho gayi yaar.

Sonal Kalra has decided to grab every moment life has to offer. And that can’t happen till both her hands are busy holding the phone.