Friday, 15 July 2016

Pokémon, mobile phones and hype resistance

My latest blog post I'm dying to play Pokémon Go mostly got responses from fellow bloggers that said they did not grow up with pokémon and hence didn't understand what all the fuss is about. (I decided to take this as a compliment: I'm obviously young in spirit.) Bhagpuss even wrote a post in response entitled Why I'm Not Playing Pokémon Go (Like I Have To Have A Reason). Spoiler: it's because he doesn't own a phone. To keep up the tradition I'll now reply to him with another post about hypes and, err, phones. (I know, it's not exactly MMOs, but it'll have to do.) This is a lengthy one, so you're warned.

The pokémon hype

Bhagpuss associates pokémon with childhood hypes such as furbies and tamagotchis, which he got familiar with through his children. Me, I missed that there was a pokémon hype to begin with. Sure, the anime was broadcasted, but I thought it was dumb (sorry Ash lovers). I disliked some of the pokémon because they were meant to be overly cute or were tasteless ripoffs of existing animals (jigglypuff, milktank, I'm looking at you). Others I did like (pikachu and bulbasaur), but I couldn't care less about what they did in the story. I am a terrible pokéfan.

But then the games. The pokémon games for the Gameboy are simple yet - in my opinion - timeless. A great game stays a great game, even if it's graphics get heavily outdated. Playing those 20 year old pokémon games is still my one of my favourite indoor holiday occupations. Yet, contrary to furbies and tamagotchis, nobody at school was talking about pokémon. My gender and age may partly have been at fault here, but it simply never occurred to me to talk with my friends about the games. What supposedly was a hype for me simply meant having immense fun losing myself in the world of pokémon together with my brother.

But I was going to talk about phones. Near the end his post, Bhagpuss declares (spoiler alert): 
"I probably would be playing Pokémon Go along with everyone else right now, just to be part of the buzz, if it wasn't for one other thing: I don't own a mobile phone. Not just not a smart one (...), I don't even own a dumb one."
I feel for him: if you don't own a mobile phone in today's world you're regarded as somewhat of an oddity. I know, because I spent the majority of my student years (which are still ongoing) without one myself. Instead, I called with this:

Proof that it's dangerous to gift me something hideous for my birthday:
I may end up actually using it!

The following conversation took place at least several times a month:

"Could I have your phone number please?"


"Your mobile phone number, please." 

"I don't have one."

This is where The Stare of Unbelief would make an entrance. Followed by the unavoidable Thoughts of How Do I Deal With This Odd Entity. From this moment onwards, the conversation could go various ways, but usually followed the same patterns.

I couldn't participate in some services just because a mobile phone number was required. Sometimes, people were nearly offended when they find out you have no mobile phone. "But what if you're going somewhere and you're late?" "Err, well, just like before we had mobile phones: they assume I missed the train and wait 15 minutes?"

Mobile phone gripes

I have to admit that there are some things I'm not fond of when it comes to mobile phones. For instance, people calling in public transport ("I'm now in the bus. I'll be home in 10.") drive me crazy. The constant updating of where you are just seems unnecessary and stressful to me. Yet somehow I don't see people doing this as often as I used to. So either people have adjusted their way of handling their phone, or I'm just not registering it anymore because I'm so used to it by now.

I guess this slight distrust to mobile phones originates from back when they broke through, in the early 2000's or so. I remember it well, I was 14 and all of a sudden half of my class got a mobile phone from their parents. Literally half of my class: all the girls did, almost none of the boys did (this, of course, changed in later years when phones got more affordable). The reason, although nobody spoke this aloud, was that parents were afraid that their girls would run into creepy people (aka get raped). I thought this was ridiculous. What would you do? In the process of being raped: "one moment, I need to call my mum"? I always thought that, if rapists were your worry, the expensive phone money would've been better spent on a martial arts course for your daughter. When I talked about this to my female class mates, they'd respond with "but it's really handy when you have a flat tier!" - most of us went to school by bicycle. This was true. But what about the boys, then? They just had to walk when they got a flat tier? That hardly seemed fair. In reality, the mobile phones were mostly used by my female classmates to call to their mums when they arrived at their friends' places. Mums that would freak out if they forgot to do so. Instead of an increase in safety, I felt surrounded by control freaks. And thus I associated mobile phones with the image of young women as volatile beings to be protected rather than young women that could take care of themselves. As I rather put myself in the latter group, I insisted I did not want a phone.

No, mobile phones and 14 YO stubborn and over-thinking me did not get off to a good start.

But the way we use mobile phones changed, and people do, too. When I exchanged our village for the big city to study at the university, I bought a 20 euro mobile phone to keep in contact. When it eventually broke down, I decided not to get a new one: by now I also had a wired phone. (Although in hindsight my boyfriend at that time's obsession with keeping track of where I was may have had something to do with it as well. He could not expect me to message him all the time if I had no phone.)

In my mobile-free student years, not having a mobile phone was automatically perceived as a conscious choice deviating from the norm and most people assumed I was "anti-phone". In reality I now felt neutral about them: people constantly updating their whereabouts still make me roll my eyes, but you can also chose not to do so. I simply thought of phones as convenience objects that I could do without.

If you haven't guessed by now, I regard myself as - and now we've come to the topic in the title - 'hype resistant'. The mere fact whether a majority of people has or does something does not affect my choice to do so as well; its personal appeal to me does. This goes both ways. In recent years, nerdy fandoms (e.g. Star Trek, Star Wars) have suddenly become popular, borderline mainstream. It feels surreal! But this does not mean I now all of a sudden detest Star Trek and Star Wars - that would be silly. (In fact, I'm totally abusing the hypes to buy all the things.) So when the hype train decides an augmented reality version of my favourite Gameboy game is hot, by all means, count me in. Even if that means I'll have to buy a smartphone to play it.


  1. Haha, I would also totally use that phone. It's so classic and romantic. :D I'm not playing Pokemon Go for the simple reason that I don't have a phone to play it on...otherwise, I'd be playing constantly. Furbies and tamagotchis make me happy - so what's wrong with doing something that makes you happy? As for the whole having a cell phone as a one had one when I was a teen - 20 years ago, so IDK.

    1. I totally agree with you. It's also awesome to geek out with others about things!! And when lots of people are enjoying something, chances are higher you'll find someone to do that with. :)

      So cool you like my old phone! There's this really kitschy picture of a village in the middle of it that sort of makes it complete. The only downside is that it's completely made of plastic, including the golden parts (that's just gold paint on top of plastic). After having used it for years I'm done with it (it doesn't help that you can't get through call menus with it in which you have to enter a number). Now it will go to someone else to enjoy. :)

  2. Another reason I'm not playing Pokemon Go is that it hasn't been released in the UK yet - not that that's stopping people.

    I do think ARGs will be a fairly big thing in our future - maybe not social media big but culturally significant. I think they are the app Google Glass was looking for and when someone else comes up with a light, wearable, voice-controlled optic device that superimposes an image directly in your field of view, THEN we'll get some really interesting games.

    When Pokemon Go does officially reach the UK I will very likely try it on WiFI - I never go anywhere without at least one WiFI-capable device on me, usually two.

    1. I think so too. I mean, in terms of basic gameplay, Pokémon Go is mostly a gimped version of earlier Pokémon games. The servers and the app are even crashing constantly and still people love it. It's just the IP combined with the new experience of AR. I'm definitely looking forward to what the future will bring. Google Glass + smooth-working expanded Pokémon Go -> yes please!

  3. So we'll be streaming Star Trek Online next? Is that what this post is about?!?!

    1. Haha. Wishful thinking?

      I've actually kept myself away from STO so far because I'm already playing 2 MMOs. I'm afraid I'll get totally hooked and spend too much time in it!

  4. Heh. I can relate. For the longest time I didn't have a cell phone either. So when I had to sign up for something they would always ask my cell phone number first then once I explained I didn't have one they would ask my phone line number. At least I had that otherwise I think they would just try to kill me right there out of frustration. :)

    Even nowadays I don't use my smartphone much. Most people I need to get in touch with I do via e-mail. And most people who do need to get in touch with me know that it is the most guaranteed to contact me. So usually those who call me are the bank or some other service trying to push some crap to me that I don't want.

    As for being hype resistant I can be like that too. I mean, I don't put much resistance if it is a company that usually delivers. But otherwise I will just wait and see or completely ignore it. There are times it can be amusing to watch people talking about it from the sidelines though, like in the case of Overwatch or Pokemon Go. :)

    And I agree with Jessica Mezo. If it makes you happy, there is nothing wrong doing it. Well, unless what makes you happy harms yourself or someone else. But I am pretty sure that is not the case for the regulars here. :p

    1. Yes! Exactly that!

      I use(d, sniff) my smartphone mostly to send Hangouts messages to friends. It's an easy way to keep in touch without having to bother each other: you can read them whenever you have time, so it doesn't matter if you sent a message during work hours. I'm not the type of person that spends hours on the phone calling.

      And then I used it a *lot* for Twitter. I always thought I'd hate Twitter, but I found I enjoyed reading through tweets when getting up in the morning or bed-time reading. I do that a lot less now. But I should get a new phone this evening (I so hope I can play Pokémon Go on it! /hides)!

      And yes, the regulars here seem to all be super nice people. Nothing to complain about here. It's an honour hanging out with you all! ^^

  5. Those drawings of Pokemon with phones are super cute!

    I could say so many things about my relationship with mobile phones as well... let's do it!

    I actually do appreciate their usefulness in "emergencies" (real or imagined). I remember when I was a teenager and before I had a mobile, we were once supposed to meet at a tram station for a field trip, but I had got the time wrong and was confused why nobody was there. Since I'd also forgotten my wallet, I ended up begging (!) random strangers for a coin to be able to use one of those old-fashioned pay phones to call someone and find out what was going on... I'm glad those times are behind me. :P

    I do not like the "over-connectedness" that has become so common these days though. I see people taking their smartphones to the toilet with them, and one of my colleagues even broke hers by accidentally dropping it in the toilet. I see people freaking out if someone doesn't respond to a text within half an hour. Give it a break, people!

    I'm also incredibly wary of smartphones for several reasons and kind of dread the day when they'll become "mandatory". For one thing, they are much worse as actual phones than old-school mobile phones. My cheapie, five-year-old Samsung only needs charging every two weeks or so, while I see friends and acquaintances having to charge their smartphones once or twice a day, which is just backwards.

    I also rather dislike mobile control schemes - I do have a tablet and even with the relatively big screen I often struggle with getting it to respond to my taps - maybe I just have fat fingers or something? And I can't get over the fact that no app these days has an option to simply exit it! Modern people just leave everything running all the time unless they need to shut down the device entirely? Madness.

    On the other hand, I'm kind of afraid of having the internet at my fingertips all day. I already spend a lot of time on my PC as is, but the fact that this is the only place where I can do things like check blogs etc. does put limitations on me. I think if I had the internet with me everywhere, I might just lose myself a bit.

    1. Actually, you can exit apps in smartphones and tablets. On an android smartphone just press the square button on the bottom right. Then slide to the left any app you want to exit. On the iPad just double-press the button at the bottom and slide up the apps you want to close. Dunno how it is with other systems but I am pretty sure they have some way to do it too.

      As for everything else I agree completely!

    2. A certain C is guilty of taking his smartphone with him to a certain place. I swear the time he spends there has increased significantly! :P I personally think it's a bit.. unhygienic.

      The battery time is also a reason it took me so long to get a smartphone. I don't think I'd even been using one if my previous dumb phone wouldn't have died and Conrad had one left over. When I was looking for a new phone, I was considering a cheaper version with a lower resolution. But maybe because of this Pokémon Go madness, battery life will becoming more of a selling point and they'll finally focus on increasing it for smartphones! I'm hoping for that, at least. :P

    3. I forgot to mention (but I had to publish the previous comment because I had to leave) that I was looking for a low resolution one because the battery tends to run twice as long.

      I had the same fear of being connected to the internet all day as well, so when I took over Conrad's smartphone I kept prepaid without internet. Then, when I studied in Lund, I got a sim-card with internet for free. And wow, it was convenient. In effect, the only thing it did social media wise was that I could send Conrad messages that I'd pick up groceries, or that I'd be home later or something of the sorts, because it was free. I didn't spend abnormal times browsing in public transport or something: 1. I cycled almost everywhere (it was a small town), 2. I rather spend that time looking out of the window, dreaming, or writing a blog post in a notebook. I guess it's different if you're the type that easily gets absorbed by social media, but for me it wasn't the case.

      Back in the Netherlands I didn't have internet anymore, and I didn't *really* miss it, although it's convenient to look up when your train arrives etc instead of walking towards a printed timetable. More or less like it's useful to be able to call someone with your mobile phone rather than look for a paid public one.

      I just arranged for my first sim-only sub today, though. I'm telling myself it's because it costs the same or less as my prepaid and comes with more. In reality, it's because it includes internet and I can play Pokémon Go from more than just my back yard. ;)

    4. P.S. Cool that you like the pokémon drawings! I personally found the pikachu crowd a bit eerie rather than cute, but that also made sense as illustration for this particular blog post. Can't have a post without no pictures! ;)

    5. @Rakuno: I know about that option, my point is that it should be possible to exit each app from within the app itself. As it is it's the equivalent of having to open up your Task Manager on PC every single time you want to close a program, which is just nuts IMO.

    6. I agree it's kind of ridiculous - at first I didn't even know programs were still running on my 1st smartphone - but on the other hand I do understand they want keep the amount of buttons to a minimum. My new phone runs stock android, and I find myself mostly switching between programs in the app drawer. You can just swipe to end a program there, so luckily I'm not bothered by this in practice.

  6. I've had a mobile and a smartphone for many years now. Although I resist the tendency to constantly update, especially via social media, it can be very handy. I have a couple of experiences from my youth of visiting an event/festival with friends and losing some of them for most of the day in the years before mobiles were affordable.

    My smartphones have mainly been web access devices actually. Having a phone with me doesn't make me more likely to use it as an actual phone. But having the Internet is a huge boon as I use travel time to read all the many blogs I follow :-)

    I've just downloaded Pokemon Go this weekend (it is now available in the UK) but I can tell already I'll quickly get bored of it. The actual gameplay seems pretty skin-deep and I never was that bothered with "catching them all".

    1. Doing constant updates via social media would make me nervous. I do have Facebook, but I rarely use it. I think people have accepted by now that I don't post that often. It's more a way of being able to still connect to people that I don't see that often for me.

      Then I do use Twitter, but that's just fun for me. I don't feel an obligation to post regularly. If I ever start feeling that way, I'd probably stop with it altogether.

      One day I'm going to have a fast smartphone with a large screen so I can read blogs when underway as well. I would probably do a much better job at keeping up with blogs and miss my newspaper (which I stopped at the start of the year) less! For now, I spend my time traveling with public transport writing blog posts in an actual paper notebook (which I then type in when I get home). There's something relaxing about writing on paper versus on the PC. I do a much better job with it.

      P.S. I agree that Pokémon Go doesn't have much depth at the moment (as far as I've seen). I'm hoping that they'll be expanding it and making it a good game in the long run - they'd be crazy if they didn't, with this much public interest.

  7. Smartphone.... It's the name that does it. I didn't want one for many years. Just being attainable for anyone all of the time gives me the creeps. They may be handy in case of emergency, but but for me that was no reason to get one. Went well many many years before :)

    But.. the name. Smartphone. When I finally got one, a Samsung Galaxy S Plus, I noticed it wasn't a phone. It was a multi-media device. A very personal portable PC. And yes, you could also use it to phone. NOW I love my portable PC (Honor 7 at the moment). I hardly use it as a phone. I might call for about two minutes a month max (NO exaggeration, I really seldom use a phone, I actually hate phonecalls).

    WhatsApp, pay bills, Google Maps, take photo's (although not often, I have a camera for that), occasionally play a game, look up stuff on the internet, pay carpark, etc. etc . I use it a lot, just as I use my desktop PC.

    So, no samrtphone for me, but a portable PC, YES!

    Oh, and I still don't play Pokémon Go ;)

    1. I don't have a laptop, so for me my smartphone was a sort of mini-computer, too. But only if really needed, because it was so, so slow. Videos were out of the question, I didn't browse the internet / use it for reading blogs because pictures slowed it down a lot and its screen was a bit too small to enjoy reading long articles on. I don't mean to be complaining about this: I got it second hand from Conrad after my old, "dumb" phone died and that was super nice! I probably would've waited with buying one myself, though, since I think they were quite expensive for things with low battery life and overall durability (as Shintar noted above). It makes me happy to see these points are getting more attention with the newer devices - I'm hoping this is a trend. :)

  8. I don't really like how overtechnical phones have become. Even the easy-access to them can be a nightmare in the correct circles.

    For the first point, I honestly believe that a phone should just be that; a phone. Anything else - internet, YouTube, Instagram, etc. - is an unnecessary luxury, similar to how I view games consoles with their Netflix access or whatever nowadays.

    For the second, it can mean that people are notified of things too quickly. Notably, say someone at school has a falling-out with their absolute best friend; they use their phone to immediately notify their parent, who then contacts a teacher expecting a quick resolution, and by this point the two have already made up and the situation could have escalated for no reason.

    Having a portable phone is convenient, I do acknowledge, but it's just going far too far at this point for my liking. But then I am aggressively anti-technology for my generation, so feel free to dismiss my views! :P

    1. Heh, it's refreshing to see someone beating me at being anti-technology! I'm conservative with personal use (especially for my generation, 20-30's) rather than anti, although that distinction isn't always clear on first sight. But I think it's an interesting topic to discuss.

      I'm a bit more optimistic than you in that I think that people learn how to use new media in perspective to the social values they crave. It's not just the technology that shapes habits, it's also the human actor. In case of your example with the parent, technology enables that behaviour, but it's the parent that actually chooses to act. If it were me, I wouldn't have seen the point of contacting the teacher in the first place (unless things would really get out of hand and action would be required): it's the business between those to kids and the dispute will likely teach them something about the value of friendship. (After all, children are constantly learning and can't do so without trial and error.) It feels odd to me to blame something like that on new technology.

      The way people and technology interact and create "the social", if you will, is fluid, ever changing, and that's nothing new. Similar concerns tend to emerge with each introduction of new technology. Nobody knows where we're heading, but that makes it the more interesting.


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