Broken Blackberry

Five years ago my mother was incapable of turning on a computer let alone maintaining an email address, using Microsoft Word, the Internet, and managing music and pictures. At first, it seemed a novel idea. “Your mom is going to take computer lessons,” my dad told me. “Finally,” I thought, “it’s about time.” And she followed through. For a long time I had to be ready to dispose a daily fifteen-minute time block to my mother’s inept computer skills and knowledge. She would forget where the ‘Start’ button was and tell me to “call AOL!” (America Online was the epitome of technology and computers for her for two years).

Fast-forwarding three years, one day my mother came home with a gift for me, a Blackberry smartphone. She told me “you need one, it’s about time.” You see, she came a long way from her computer-less days. She became obsessed with emails, often chain emails. She got an iPod and an iPad immediately when it was released. She set up a wireless printer, Bluetooth connectivity on her Macbook, and edited wireless router configurations and restrictions through the house PC on her own. And then the Blackberry made its entrance. Equipped with worldwide access to the Internet and a four-gigabyte memory card, my mother was unstoppable. The immediate knowledge of the world was at her fingertips. I would find myself walking in the door with groceries to the shocking flash of the camera on her phone snapping at the momentous occasion. Within minutes every family member on her BBM contact list was graced with a portrait of me holding bags of groceries in my sweatpants on a Tuesday afternoon.

The obsession with technology and communication was missing one facet. Having learned a lesson from our mistake in introducing my mother to technology my family downplayed the features and potential of Facebook. But one day my mother announced, “I signed up for Facebook!” This sealed the deal. That was it. There was endless communication capability. Facebook friends. Posting and tagging on Walls (including mine) was inevitable. And then she activated Facebook on her Blackberry. The barriers of communication that at one time physically manifest in closing the door to my room were broken.

I took my gift with great trepidation. I knew the devil that lay within, the absorbing obsessive undertone that came hand-in-hand with my new smartphone. But I was using a flip phone without a color screen, was I supposed to reject it? In hindsight, the answer is yes. But I took the phone, activated my number, and begin adding friends to my Blackberry Messenger list.

Fast-forwarding one more year from then, my Blackberry is still by my side. And I hate it. It has consumed me. Until the past year I kept my dose of technology in check. It wasn’t a drug. I was always good at computers – burning CDs at ten years old, building websites and writing html at twelve, and taking on digital design too. I was the guy that can have just one cigarette and stop at my own will, but with technology. I milked the advantages of following the newest technology, reaping the benefits of new gadgets, software, computers, and websites. But the Blackberry ruined me. I aided in creating the technology beast that took over my mother only to see it whiplash back at me.

Fast-forwarding to this past January I made a New Year’s resolution. I am going to literally smash my Blackberry Smartphone this year (and ironically, despite its symbolism, perhaps put it up on YouTube). It’s about time. Even with my addiction, I do still see the benefits of technology. I’ve discussed in previous posts, papers, and reflections on how technology has aided my learning experience. It still does. But the Blackberry has created a mobile world for me that has no boundaries or limits. The BBM application is the prime culprit too.

Today, my mother is in technology rehab. She has deactivated her Facebook account and deleted BBM. She found her balance. This year I will find mine. And it begins with picking up my old flip phone. It’s about time.