Use a single word to describe a day without telco services.
One would probably say ‘insecure’ or even ’empty’.
Would that change if just one part of Singapore was experiencing the shutdown or if the whole of Singapore was experiencing the shutdown?
If the telco services had shut down globally, would we still be this insecure?
(Discussing this in the context of work)
A case in point. Imagine that both your boss and you – the employee, are not allowed, by law, to send or receive messages on weekends. Would you still be insecure about not receiving work if you do not check your phones or emails?
However, imagine that only you – the employee are unable to receive messages on weekends (assuming your boss does not know of this arrangement), while your boss is able to launch artillery into your inboxes as he pleases. Would you now be insecure about not receiving work if you do not check your phones or emails?
This was what I learnt from the recent fire in Singtel, affecting various telco services in the west side of the country. I was one of those affected by the shutdown, and the experience was rather painful. One might call me a geek who cannot live without a phone or the internet. Taking either away is equivalent to taking part of me away.
My first reaction when I reached home and found myself unable to connect to WiFi was a slight panic and partial insecurity. That being said, it was after some time when I managed to more or less resign to the fact that I would not get any WiFi or messages, that I managed to sit down and work without any distractions.If there was one thing I would take away from this experience, it would be that the telco services have indeed become our connections to the rest of the world. Losing that connection felt like we were abandoned alone on the international space station, cutting off all forms of communication with earth.
After thinking about it for a long time, I realised our insecurity comes mainly from the fact that we are the only ones unable to connect with the rest. You fear your boss might be calling at this very moment. You fear the company is in trouble and you are uncontactable. You fear a client whom you met this morning might be texting you to ask you for some details before signing to contract.
It is the fear of not being kept in the loop, the fear of missing out on important information, and most of all, the fear of being unable to be ‘available’ that drives us up the wall. To top it all off, being unable to do much about the situation is what throws us off the most. I recall working at a company and overhearing a new staff being handed a new blackberry and being told to use it as a company phone. Really think about it. Is the phone a gift?
Maybe the initial reaction might be happiness, but oh how short-lived that happiness is once it morphs into an obligation. An obligation to be available 24/7. I recall going on a holiday recently and seeing many of my counterparts being constantly troubled by work and trying to cope with the time difference of 8 hours. I have witnessed and been guilty of stepping into a new place, and the first thing on the mental to-do list is to whip out the phone and hunt for a WiFi connection, not admiring the scenery despite being on holiday. Has our need to be constantly and consistently connected crippled us?
When one is swamped with whatsapp messages and emails, one might think how wonderful it would be if only our internet connection were cut, and then we would have an excuse not to read and reply all the messages.
That thought lingers…
Until the time comes when our connections are really cut, and we have a panic attack.
Easier said than done, but this over reliance on being connected should stop. Not because we are any less passionate about our work or connecting with the people close to our hearts, but because it has made our sense of security as volatile as the WiFi signal or 3G connection.
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