Those Were the Days my Friend

My son was called up for National Service training about eight weeks ago. Since camera phones are not allowed into camps for security reasons he got himself a cheap phone, which contained only the rudimentary functions of a handphone.

A few days into his camp life, and there came an urgent message from him to my older son and my wife – he knew I wouldn't pay much heed to his request since, to me, it was a trivial matter – "Get me a handphone with Twitter and Facebook applications, I cannot do without them!".

I mused on this. I have never taken much to even the standard applications in a handphone. To me a handphone is a handphone to be used only when  absolutely necessary. Basically, to call others.

Life, however, was not always like this and my mind went back to the days of my childhood when many families did not even have a land line phone.

In those days, if one were to make an appointment, say, to meet one's friends to meet in Macritchie reservoir for a practice cross-country run on a Saturday morning or, to arrange for the activity to be followed by a swim at the Farrer Park pool and a meal after that, there was no way of confirming the appointment until after school hours on Friday.

If one did not turn up on Saturday it would be presumed that one had suddenly been taken ill or something worse had happened.

Needless to say punctuality, if the arrangement was to meet at a particular bus stop at a given time, was of the essence.

Singapore in the 1960s of course did not have the kind of efficient transport system, which also meant that if a particular bus service did not come within a given time it may be more prudent to walk your way to the appointed place or take different buses on a round-robin trip to reach one's destination.

Still, life, with all its uncertainties, was that much more fun.

The point I am trying to make is this: the youth of today with all their attention focused on the new media are losing precious time that may be put to much better use.

Again, I would point to my younger son by way of an example. For, even when he is watching his favourite soccer match, he is sending thirty messages within the span of about an hour and a half. Here, I fear, I may be making an understatement.

So much productive energy is being frittered away by this constant attention to the handphone and its numerous applications. This is only going to worsen as the years progress.

Is this all really necessary?

My childhood days, I thought, were being led astray by the Television which had then just came on to the scene.

Fortunately, I was fortunate to set aside some valuable time on studies and made sure that whatever time spent on the TV did not have a negative effect on my positive actions.

Just when I thought it may be possible for children to get away from being glued to the TV screen and spend the productive energy in more useful ways, the handphone, the ipad and their attendant applications have again come to haunt a new generation.

When will today's youth come out of this, I wonder?
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