Disconnected, A Guest Blog by Bassey Ikpi
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Hello SMW Lagos family!
Today marks the beginning of our guest blog series featuring some of Africa’s most interesting voices talking about everything from technology, and fashion and everything in between!
Allow us to introduce our April blogger: the incredibly talented poet, and media personality Bassey Ikpi and her work “Disconnected,” on the dreaded threat of life without social media.
Enjoy & stay tuned for the other amazing guests we have lined up!
You can not survive in Lagos without a working smart phone. Or at least, I can’t. Like most people in this country, I have two cell phones. My two phones are a little different as in they don’t hold two different network sims. Because the iPhone I bought in the US was still new, they refused to unlock it before I left. My Naija phone is Samsung Note 4 and works fine but I only use it to receive and make calls and as a hotspot so I can use my iPhone for Social media, chatting, MY WHOLE LIFE and everything else. For the last week, my Naija phone has been having trouble charging. At first, I thought it was the cord I was using and ended up throwing away what was probably a perfectly working USB cord. What I discovered was that there was a problem with the place you put the mini USB— I’m sure it has a name. I don’t know it. Is it called a charging point? I don’t know. I don’t care. A smart person would have taken it somewhere to get it checked out immediately. I’ve never been accused of such so I figured out different ways to get my phone to charge. I was like some sort of magician wrapping the cord around the phone, placing a heavy object on the exact spot necessary to keep the charge working. After a point, the charging gymnastics stopped and my phone said, “Listen, I’m tired.” And in a cab, as I tried my best to charge it on my way to a radio interview, that was that. My poor driver, Mr. Balogun, knows how attached to my phones I am, I had to tell him to please face the road and not my phone.
It was bad enough that my phone just drained but because it was also a wifi hotspot, that rendered my iPhone useless. I was suddenly completely unreachable. I have friends who relish in those moments where they can put their phones away and just breathe air and smell flowers and frolic with children or whatever. I am not one of those people. I need to be connected at all times. What if something happens? What if someone needs me? I’m not from Lagos and barely know my way around. I can tell you how to get to the Lekki toll bridge and parts of Ikeja after that, I need to phone a friend. Plus, social media via mobile is how I keep in touch with people. These frequent trips to Nigeria can be lonely and isolating so the last thing I need is to feel even more disconnected from people. I realized that my phone was just not a means of communication, it was a means of connection. It can be argued that texts and chats can’t replace face to face communication and I won’t dispute that but what I do know is that when you are homesick and far from home, a text or chat with a loved one can mean the world. The panic I felt was less about the phone and more about that distance that being away from home creates. Social media bridges that gap. I chat with my friends in the States, some not even knowing I’ve traveled. Or chat with my friends here in Lagos or Calabar or Abuja and feel like they are always with me. I carry my family and friends in these tiny electronic devices. They connect me to a digital home while I’m constantly having to uproot myself physically.
I really wish Lagos would adopt a public wifi system but I’d also like Lagos to adopt 24 hour electricity and a Target so let’s just take what we can get.
I quickly found wifi and hotspots so my iPhone could at least work but it would fall silent again when I moved out of range. I don’t want to be without my devices, especially when I’m already without my friends and family trying to work and negotiate space and time in Lagos. And with a mad schedule and even madder traffic, I don’t ‘really get an opportunity to see my friends outside of events here. SMS and chats are how we check in. I can fly in and fly out never having seen some of them but still knowing everything they’ve been up to and vice versa. Things have changed and I’m glad.
Now, I just need my phone back so I’m not stuck indoors for the entire weekend. I can’t get anywhere without GPS… or Instagram.
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