IF there is one drawback to the festive season, and the celebrations in general, it is the existence of WhatsApp as it operates today; not as a platform of social interaction, but as a tool of over-occupying time that could be put to much better use, and as a channel for accumulating vast amounts of content that is in most cases quite useless.
Back in the late 1990s, shortly after MTN came into being here and everybody picked up a mobile phone our biggest problem during the festive season was finding enough network access to message or call our loved ones.
The crowds of people gathered at the Sheraton for fireworks on New Year’s Eve were framed in a city-wide halo of light on the ground from the dim screens of their mobile phones as they kept pressing re-send or re-dial in between curses of how, “This damn network…!”
We thought we hated that.
Then afterwards, because the system was designed to correct itself after a while, you had hundreds of SMS messages suddenly popping into your message box at about four in the morning – sometimes from the same number that had kept pressing ‘Send Again’ and originating a fresh message each time.
And in between the excitement of having a mobile phone in our hands, liquids in our bodies and fireworks overhead, we suffered through it and entered into the New Year with hangovers only above our foreheads.
These days, the bigger hangover is in our phone media galleries, which very quickly fill up with numerous copies of videos and photographs of more or less the very same thing just forwarded ad nauseum.
On WhatsApp today there are messages that come in and you instantly know they will be replicated a hundred times over before the day is done. Sometimes it’s the scandalous videos or funny photos or forwarded ‘Breaking News!’ messages, but over the festive season…
…it was thousands of glittering images and videos all proclaiming season’s greetings and clogging up storage space to the extent that the first week of the year was probably spent just deleting media from our phones. Some of you are still at it even as you read this, or you are planning to take leave to delete photos and videos.
In my days of carrying a 16GB phone with cloud storage, this would have been an absolute nightmare. The cloud storage helped a lot as I set the phone to store all media on the cloud, but they only got uploaded when I was in a Wi-Fi zone. On busy days when I was operating in the field away from any Wi-Fi it took just a couple of hours of WhatsApp chatter to fill up the phone with media.
By the time we got to the festive season, I had upgraded to a 128GB phone so I was quite at ease but I did notice a couple of people in my group jeering every so often and then doing thumbnastics to clear out phone storage space because of all the ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year’ messages.
When I asked one why they didn’t just change their settings, she was surprised that she could do this.
First, I showed her how to change her WhatsApp settings so that the app didn’t download media automatically onto her phone without her express intervention. I explained that it not only saved her data usage, but also kept the storage problem at bay. That works for me to some extent but I fear that sometimes I walk into Wi-Fi zones unplanned and rapidly download a whole host of items that I had no intention of owning.
Then, I turned to the cloud options available to her and shocked her. She could not believe that for just Ushs3,500 a month (in United States Dollars) she could store about 50GB of stuff online and access it whenever and wherever she wanted to, provided she had bandwidth or data access.
Cost aside, one other person in the group noted, cloud storage was extremely sensible for him because he had lost about three devices in the last one year alone and was still sad about the personal photographs that went with them.
I’ve recently been in that boat and only survived drowning because of my cloud storage activities. And that’s also helped me keep from going mad deleting Christmas and New Year’s photos and videos from my phone.
It may appear to be a simple matter but you have no idea what opportunities could go by you just because your media or photo gallery is chock-full of irrelevant stuff at a critical moment.
I watched a friend this week trying to impress a wealthy potential client with a photograph of a design he had implemented, but it took him so long to scroll through his iPhone photo gallery to find it that the potential client soon lost interest (as did I, to be honest).
The opportunity went by just like that. Deleted from memory – which is what he should have done with all those Christmas and New Year’s photos and videos on the first of the month.