Digitally bound: the app-ification of our lives

Hello RF

Life before smartphones… remember?

As Balinghou – born in the 1980s – or Millennial in common Western generation vocabulary, I remember not getting my first smartphone until my early twenties.

Of course, many of you are laughing at that sentence. I never said I was old. Old enough to know what it really means to hang up.

Mobile technology has changed the way we communicate and interact with the world since its sudden appearance. The world’s first cell phone call was made by him in 1973 on a Motorola device about the size of Webster’s dictionary. At the time, the technology was not popular or easily accessible for most people. In the decades that followed, as devices gradually dwindled, prices fell to more affordable levels, mobile communications infrastructure improved, devices entered our homes and pockets, and eventually wall-mounted phones. and cord-connected telephones have been completely replaced.

It’s been quite a shift in the technological zeitgeist since I first moved to China in 2009 with a new iPhone 3G, which I couldn’t even use here without some technical tinkering (Cydia Anyone remember?). I sent SMS messages on my flip phone and 9-button keypad until I got home and saved enough dough to get my carrier-unlocked smartphone.

Either way, the days of carrying around paper are almost entirely gone. Banknotes, paper maps and paper books are rare, especially in Shanghai today. Smartphones are now so ubiquitous that they have become a requirement for basic tasks in modern city life. The pandemic era has made that point especially strong.

While this technology offers a great deal of convenience, it certainly has its pitfalls.

When Apple first debuted the iPhone and introduced the idea of ​​”apps,” their ads referred to all sorts of situations and tasks, proudly proclaiming “There’s an app for that!” Today, it is common knowledge, if not painfully obvious. There are countless apps for just about everything we need to do. In fact, there are apps for tasks you don’t want or don’t need that seem to be more fiddly and hang-up than doing it manually.

Either way, there’s no denying that having pocket-sized devices that were considered supercomputers just a few decades ago facilitates a lot of positive things. , which is essentially the same size as the Gap from 2000 to the era of the Pony Express, makes communication so streamlined and convenient that even the stockiest Luddites have to admit.

Payment is also much easier and more convenient with the mobile app. In many ways, China led the way in this regard, as it used WeChat Pay and Alipay for almost everything long before many other countries. I can’t imagine any other country using . When was the last time you touched a banknote? I don’t even have a wallet these days.

Digitization: the application of our lives


It is true that in some cases, some people do not like the tracking and tracing of payments that come with using their smartphones. am. His RFID chip on many bank cards can be maliciously corrupted or its information stolen by passers-by or malicious devices designed for that purpose. Additionally, each code is unique and temporary.

And with cash, to quote Omar Little, “There are no owners, only consumers.” Your lost cash will not have your name on it. But accessing data from a lost smartphone is nearly impossible, let alone siphoning funds from the owner’s bank account.

Of course, ride-hailing apps and ride-hailing apps can also help a lot. Apps for listening to music, checking news and sports, learning and practicing languages, buying transport tickets, and countless other tasks will definitely make your life easier. . Even mindless mobile games can be therapeutic during stressful times.

But I’d be negligent if I didn’t leave a little room to complain about the aspects that bothered me in the app age. I think it might be…

Digitization: the application of our lives


I absolutely hate ordering food at a restaurant by scanning an app tacked onto the table and selecting items from a digital menu. First of all, the mini-program asks for your personal information – we don’t know why a hot pot and dumpling joint would need it – and often sends you unwanted ads later on. I also need to talk to humans when ordering food and know that they listened to me and understood everything. I used to work in a restaurant when I was a student. The back of the house is a busy place. But the feeling of waiting at a table for food and drink without knowing what’s going on and whether or not they’re getting the message is overly stressful, at least for me. Special requests for are also not allowed.

Talking to a person is easier than trying to navigate digital menus while booting from an app or pressing the wrong button and starting over.

However, the next one goes beyond the realm of irritation and plunges into the depths of hair-pulling rage.Many foreigners in China will feel my pain in this.

When you use the app or any other smartphone conduit to register for something (make a reservation, use a service, etc.), you’ve noticed that when you enter your PIN, you can only enter China’s Shenzhen or National ID How many times has the card been available as an entry option?

This will quickly create a stone wall dead end. What you were trying to do is simply not doable unless you ask someone for help, call a customer service number, or find another workaround if there is one. The app offers options to use passport numbers and other types of ID numbers, but not all!

Last fall, I traveled to a relatively remote area in northern China, where the provincial health code app designer didn’t seem to have considered this issue. While there I didn’t get a full green code. Or I didn’t get the code at all. As we all know, there was a time when green code was more than necessary to basically do anything.

Digitization: the application of our lives


I will not go into the details of this very frustrating predicament. You can imagine some of the difficulties, but I don’t want to fall into an uncontrollable scream in this quiet office as I relive it.

The era of code checking is now over, but the problem still exists on many platforms. I recently had to cancel a trip to watch a soccer game. This is because the app, which sold a limited number of tickets, also did not have an international passport input method.

I’m going to rant here, but in my opinion a digital app for registering for important events, documents, and other services would be nice if it were just an option, but it would be useful to complete the task at hand. , it can be quite the opposite.

Also, for many people, myself included, the general idea of ​​being hopelessly tied to anything, especially a small device, is uncomfortable. But if we are honest with ourselves, that is the reality of the modern world for so many people. We are compelled to buy these devices – they are not cheap! You pay monthly to use one of the few giant companies out there. This is another issue in our modern world, but I digress on that point.

Losing or breaking a phone is a big deal and can seriously affect our lives, both at work and in our social life. Our devices own us as much as they own us.

Again, I live on my phone and I won’t give it up. Quite a conundrum, that’s for sure.

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