Living in 'App'ier Times And Tech-Life Balance

25/09/2015 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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information coming out of a smart phone

At the end of their visit to us in Munich recently, my parents, who are "tech-challenged" like many of their generation, wanted to hire a cab to the airport. To this end, my father, new to the world of apps, was given a brief lesson on how to hire a cab and renew money on the Uber app by my husband, the quintessential tech-geek of today.

It was interesting to observe these two worlds collide. Here was a man whose entire day consists of gadgets and apps trying to explain a seemingly simple click-to-order process to a man who enjoys his conventional paper and pen routine with negligible patience for the uploading or downloading of anything. That really is the crux of the generation gap today.

"The tech-life balance is just as important as the work-life balance today for every generation."

Today, our smartphones, laptops and apps rule our lives. From calling a taxi to finding your soul mate -- there is nothing that a thumb on an app cannot accomplish. In fact, with Siri or the Google voice service, you don't even need to lift that thumb!

The plethora of Application Software (apps) available to us today is an impressive and varied catalogue, addressing all the minutiae of our lives (such as an app for, say, measuring the number of steps you walk in a day; there's even an app called Beer?! that you can use to invite a friend for a drink).

I recently watched the stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari's show on Netflix where amid hilarious takes on marriage and dating, he talked about how apps like Tinder, Grinder and many more have become the virtual hunting grounds for the "ideal" soul mate, making conventional arranged marriages quite redundant. In an age where you can shortlist based on all kinds of mind-boggling parameters -- caste, religion, hobbies, hair colour, eyes, skin, height, weight, even zip codes -- technology is seamlessly bridging the gaps and bringing the degrees of separation down to almost zero. The arranged vs. love marriage debate has become passé, replaced by much hype around these dating sites.

Then there are people like me -- addicted to our TV shows. The online streaming market today is growing bigger and bigger and providing serious competition to the downloadable Torrent-like sites. As long as you have smart phone or a tablet you can watch your show even when you're on a journey.

Then there's Shazam for identifying music, Snapchat (which has more than 100 million users and counting) for blink-and-you-miss it communications, Uber for taxi services at your fingertips (nevermind the controversies), and even digital health apps using wearable technology like FitBit that allow you to track various health parameters through your smart phone. I read recently that Google is planning wifi hubs all over the US and eventually worldwide. Apple's recently launched live streaming app is already making waves.

The market is enormous and the possibilities are limitless. The debate, of course, then is, how much of this "app-titude" is too much? As imperative as it is to be with it in this tech bubble we live in today, how can we ensure a tech-life balance for all generations?

A rather important demographic has found itself inadvertently stuck in the middle of the "tech gen"debate today is parents. The growing debate today on the use of gadgets by children and how much is too much is gathering steam worldwide. Schools are now using iPads and tablets to teach whereas at home we struggle with already addicted kids and have to snatch away their devices so they can concentrate on their dinner. Ours was perhaps the last generation that wasn't exposed to gadgets almost as soon as we were born. Today a noisy toy isn't enough to distract a child, but a Talking Tom does the trick. And we succumb to it for our own peace of mind.

"Take the time to teach your family about that app store, that email feature, that online payment portal. And take the time to pull that iPad away from your kids..."

But how much is too much? While I am an avid app user myself and don't yet have kids of my own, I firmly believe that children are being born in a world where exposure to technology is essential to an extent and inevitable. But until they are the right age, we must control the usage and not let an app have the upper hand. Living in Munich, I have observed and admired the focus on outdoor activity and physical exercise. This seems to be lacking in many other countries where the likes of Candy Crush, Temple Run and Xbox games are playtime favourites. Growing up, we used to look forward to those summer afternoon swim sessions, tennis classes and the odd cricket game in the field behind the house. Today, mothers are frantically fixing swimming or piano lessons so that their children don't miss out on these important skills and extra-curriculars. This is important when they are young. They have the rest of their lives to bury themselves in technology.

Having said that, just like my father, all of us have relatives who haven't quite caught up with the tech generation yet and just explaining to them what an app store is can be exhausting. But, today every generation today needs to be in sync to fit in and progress in concert with the younger lot. Take the time to teach your family about that app store, that email feature, that online payment portal. And take the time to pull that iPad away from your kids and send them out to play.

The tech-life balance is just as important as the work-life balance today for every generation.

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