I’ve worked with technology all of my adult life, built a business based on technology, written extensively about technology and evangelised technology, BUT I don’t own a mobile phone. How come?
When I worked full time I had one but in August 2005, I threw it to one side and haven’t bought one since (sorry I’ve bought several for my teenage sons). Don’t get me wrong, my use of technology increased dramatically at this point as I had the time to blog, email, research, Facebook and eventually Tweet away and I did, with a vengeance. I was just fed up with random calls that led to random behaviour and gave me no time to think.
A mobile stops and interrupts your life. You subject yourself to the tyranny of incoming calls and texts. This disturbs me a lot, as I like to stay in the flow, when I’m doing things. I don’t like being interrupted. I don’t want the tail wagging the dog. When I’m reading the newspaper, watching the news, watching a movie, reading a book or writing, I don’t want to hear the shrill sound of a ringtone. It throws me. It also leads to demands and promises (not saying NO enough) that nag away at your mind until they’re fulfilled.
I hate ringtones, every last one of them. From the familiar simple, standards to the full polyphonic cacophonies that assault my ears and mind on trains and buses, I hate them all. When their phone rings, it’s not for my attention or the attention of the train carriage or busload of passengers, it’s for the owner. It’s sometime absurdly loud.
It’s this collapse of the public-private distinction that disturbs me the most. It's so undignified. I yearn for the days when telephony was confined to the privacy of your own home or in a large, red, metal box. Private conversations should be private, not public. What’s more, I‘m often forced to listen to one side of a banal conversation as it is being SHOUTED DOWN THE PHONE. Since when did people believe that they have the right to inflict public shouting on large numbers of their fellow human beings for long periods in enclosed places? I’ve even experienced teenagers place the phone on a table between them on a train to use it as a mini-ghetto blaster. How rude is that?
There’s a Facebook group set up for people like me who want a law to make it legal to club someone with a baseball bat if they stop or slow down in front of you due to mobile use. I’m a member. What makes someone think that when walking along a crowded street they can just stop or slow down causing small ripple traffic jams among the pedestrians, just because they’ve got a call. Move to one side. Have some respect. Some of us have things to do and places to get to. We’re not all itching for intimate phone chat.
Mobiles during movies
Another social convention that seems to have suffered is the expectation that one can watch a movie or live performance, without some idiot checking their texts or sending them, illuminating the three rows behind them. This is behaviour of such selfishness that I rarely respond with polite request. I prefer to prod them on the back of the head with one finger, then tell them to switch it off. This, I’ve found is not an age or class thing. Some of the worst offenders are older middle-class folk who seem to think the world revolves around them and their family, “Sorry darling, I’ll have to call you back later….(silent thought - there’s a mad Scotsman about to ram my mobile up my rectum)……love you”.
You’re in a queue at the bank, in a supermarket, at the ticket booth in the station, and there’s some prat on his/her phone who’s having a conversation during the transaction. Of course, they can’t and slow the whole process down. The teller, check-out person and ticket seller shake their head with disbelief and the rest of us want to shove the mobile into their open mouth (sideways).
Then there’s the nutters in airports and planes who feel the desperate need to call as the plane is landing or just after the pilot has announced that it’s illegal. Even a solid stare from a member of the cabin crew doesn’t put them off – they’ll continue with that call to the death, literally of us all.
Similarly in petrol stations, where the danger of sparks demand that you switch them off to prevent you and everyone else being emolliated. If you don’t think this is possible, watch this horrific video.
Lastly, there’s the murderers and suicide drivers who use them while driving. To be fair this is often guys in vans (sort of understandable) or wankers in BMWs (unforgivable). Using a mobile increases your chance of killing yourself and others. No you can’t multi-task Mr BMW, ask your wife – she’ll tell you that you can barely use a knife and fork at the same time.
Travel without a mobile
I travel to escape the greyness of the UK, to let time expand and immerse myself in another place or culture. I don’t want a dose of the UK in my ear every few hours. I spent years travelling without one and don’t see the need for one now. There’s nothing sadder than some middle manager responding to some middle-management task in a place of great beauty or interest. It’s just wrong.
Asynch or synch
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m basically an asynch sort of guy. I’m fairly gregarious and social but I prefer incoming fire to be deflected and stored for later perusal. I don’t like all of this ‘out of the blue’ stuff, where you’re showered by requests in realtime, even strangers selling you things. It’s not that I’m a communications curmudgeon. Indeed, I’m an almost obsessive emailer, blogger, Facebook addict and Tweeter. But with this lot I’m in control and can respond in my own good time, or not at all.
I’m not saying abandon mobiles. If you work, they’re often necessary and if you just love to chat on the phone for hours, that’s fine with me. I’m even cool with people who want to have an electronic umbilical chord to their teenage offspring. Just don’t expect me to subject myself to that regime.