Although some people might find it hard to believe, society jogged along quite nicely before the mobile phone was invented. People really did talk to each other on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis, not through a series of barely legible text messages, and they actually made eye contact. There was no irritating beeping, or nauseating ringtones announcing their presence at a crucial point in the conversation; like that of a sweet-deprived spoilt child. Nor were there uncontrollable urges to dive into the depths of one’s handbag at random moments, because you felt sure you heard the irritating beep or nauseating ringtone. And with the ever expanding market of newer and more sophisticated mobiles and the vast quantity and variety of ‘apps’ they can hold, our ‘human’ connection to each other appears to be becoming a thing of the past.
‘Not true’ I hear you protest, on the contrary mobile phones bring people closer. We don’t only text, we talk when we call someone, we have video links so we can see each other when we talk, we could watch a film or play a game together on our mobiles, we could even listen to music together.
Well, yes all of that is indeed possible but, and think carefully on this, how many times have you seen two people or a linked-couple sharing some earphones? How many times have you seen people watching, or have yourself, watched a film with friends on your mobile, and I’m not talking about Tom Dick or Harry’s New Year Party, or when ‘Auntie Flo did the Conga’; I’m talking a full-length film. And as for the ‘video’ link our phones offer, I am pretty sure there are few, if any, that have braved the sight of themselves or another, without feeling that the experience would be unrepeatable, due to being faced with something that resembled E.T. before he went home. No, I still hold the view that mobile phones are causing humans to become ‘ex-directory.’
Having been a frequent traveller on buses I have very often observed the habits of fellow passengers and, believe me when I say, I have witnessed those that make your blood boil or your toes curl. Mostly, though it has been the mobile phone that has stolen the show. From being subjected to the Dom Jolys and their ‘Allo! Allo!, to the raucous tones of Eminem whether you like him or not, or the details of matters of a more personal nature, such as who’s going out with whom and why. It has all been shared in the perceived isolation of the mobile phone user.
To be fair, for those of us of a generation that grew up without mobile phones it is easier to comment, because of course we are able to compare the then and now. But for the younger generations I believe the idea of life without a mobile would be totally unthinkable, such is the impact that these devices have had on society.
Of course there are also positives that come with having access to communication immediately to hand. Parents can keep in contact with their children and vice-versa. A car breakdown needn’t be such a nightmare (providing your phone is charged). The elderly can have an extra element of security, and a forgotten appointment need no longer incur the penalty of a fine, or a red face. So yes, there are good things to be said.
Perhaps then manufacturers should introduce a section on mobile phone etiquette alongside its usage instructions. After all, if we all became more aware of what is socially acceptable and considerate, we might all begin to connect with each other once again. However, when our next upgrade is due and we eagerly await the arrival of the latest, all singing, all dancing, speediest, app loaded, able to pay for your groceries with mobile phone; and we scan the booklet only to find there is no etiquette, maybe this is the time to stop and think and to introduce our own.
The mobile phone is most definitely here to stay. It has fast become a must-have gadget of the modern world and one which few people feel they could do without. Overall it can be an asset to our lives in the 21st Century, providing its intrusiveness is limited.
So to all my fellow users I ask, next time you need to make a call, be aware of the nature of it and of your surroundings. Next time you need to send a text, make sure the recipient can read it! Next time you want to listen to music or watch a film, think twice about the battering of someone else’s eardrums or the shattering of another’s peace as they try to read a book. Think also about the fun and laughs you have when you have a one-to-one conversation with a friend, and the warmth of a hug when the world seems to be your enemy. Think of the human connection and the loneliness of isolation. Make your mobile phone a part of your life don’t let it keep you apart from the rest of society.