Happy Birthday Mobily

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Smartphones

The mobile phone is celebrating its 40th Birthday and it’s ruined our lives – but we haven’t realised it yet.

Ruined? Yes ruined. Those moments where there was lull in the conversation in the past were just silence until the next thing worth talking about came along now people in the middle of conversations – and silences are part of conversations – are filled with people checking texts, call, social network updates and apps. We’re slowly losing the ability to speak to each other and I blame the mobile.

I resisted the mobile phone until 1998 when I finally caved in a nd got a basic Nokia in case I ever needed it when driving. I rarely phoned anyone – still don’t – and the occasional text was sent just to let someone know something too hort for a call. The mobile at that stage was fine because it did a simple job well. Now with the advent and sophistication of the Smartphone we are losing many different things from our culture.

Conversation is the first thing to go, but rudeness has crept in into the space left behind. One-on-one I find it very rude to be constantly checking your phone and when I go into school first thing I’m faced with a corridor full, and then a classroom full, of kids ignoring each other and their eyes glued to their small screens instead. Wen we caught up in the morning we yapped and joked and talked about the previous night – now kids have already updated their Facebook status so that conversation is dead.

As the lovely Stephen Fry once said on QI the phone in itself is a very rude thing as it pops up ringing like a small child looking for attention as you sit quietly in your house – the mobile is even worse as it’s portable. You can be in the most beautiful place in the world and suddenly a phone I taken out for a photo or a call which interrupts everyone around. On trains and buses people can’t survive without speaking to someone on the other end of a call rather than to the person opposite. Planes are the worst though; two seconds the wheels have been on the tarmac and everyone is rummaging for their phones in case someone poked them or challenged them to a game of Words with Friends. When visiting people you should switch your phone off, when going to the cinema or theatre you should switch your phone off. Even if you are on call you could at least have it on silent otherwise your tech ‘child’ starts beeping and demanding your attention.

Pub arguments are gone as are the joy of pub quizzes as every idiot sits on their phones Googling the answers to questions or disagreements. The long rambling discussion about who sang which song, or who scored the goal in the 1997 FA Cup final has all gone as a quick search and the potential two-hour meandering conversation has vanished in the press of a screen.

Conversations are drying up; we’d rather text or face time someone than pop round and catch up with them; we assume we are popular because of the amount of texts or messages we receive on our phones when actually there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face.  We are losing so many social skills it’s scary – but because it’s technology it’s seen as a good thing.

We survived for years without them and yes they are useful for emergencies but can we all remember that the people in front of us are infinitely more interesting than a transmitted SMS to a friend, or an update to a Twitter feed. What’s the point of having the technology to speak to anyone in the world, if you end up with no-one to call because you never took the time to get to know people?

JD

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