Friday, January 29, 2010

10 reasons why I don’t have a mobile

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.

Mobilus interruptus

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.

Private-public collapse

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?

Slow movers

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”.

Queue clogger

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).

Plane stupid

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.

Burnt alive

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.

Mobile murderers

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.


The upsycho said...

What you ennumerate are examples of poor time management and/or etiquette. You need not adopt any of these bad habits yourself in owning a mobile phone. Let's face it, you could come up with fairly similar list on why not to own a car. People engage in equally (more?) stupid behaviour with those!

Oh, and on the subject of sparks igniting in fuel stations - check out this evidence to the contrary:


Donald Clark said...

I don't drive a car either!

Unknown said...

I use a phone for work, but I share the same disgust about people on trains (in the quiet coach) shouting about big deals down the phone (I'm sure they aren't talking to anyone). I also hate those who walk towards the tube in London, and then stop at the top of the steps to check their phone. Not forgetting the young woman pushing her baby in pram across a road, and zig-zagging because she can't push the pram and text at the same time.

One nit pick though. I saw a programme where they tested and proved that mobiles don't cause explosions at petrol stations. It's the static. They rigged phones up and tried to set an explosion off, but to no avail. More often than not, it happens when people go in and out of their cars at the petrol pump. It mainly happens to women, as they tend to go in and out of their car for their purse.

Harold Jarche said...

I'm with you on no mobile, though not for all the same reasons. I spend so much time on my computer that being away from my desk is a treat. Therefore, mobile = unplugged. If I used a mobile device (I have a basic cell phone but don't give out the number) I would have little time for reflection.

I avoid driving as well, but we don't have any public transport here, so we need a car.

Rob said...

I agree with you, Donald. This isn't poor time management, it's just boorish bad manners by people who believe that they are the centre of the universe.
Yes, I have one, but can never remember to take it with me. It's pay as yopu go, and a tenner lasts me about eight months.

Ian said...

I like to be asynchronous too and my iPhone allows me to do just that. I keep it in silent mode all the time so I only pick up calls when I want to. It shows me the caller and I can decide to take the call or not otherwise it diverts to voicemail. I can get and send texts and emails, and I can even check my Facebook page, my train and bus timetables (in real time). I can even instruct my Sky+ to record programmes. I wouldn't be without it.

Unknown said...

I remember when I used to read newspaper strip cartoons/jokes that revolved around the idea of somebody getting out of the bath to answer the phone. This used to amaze me because I would NEVER do this. Just because a phone rings- or soembody knocks at my door- I don't feel obliged to answer. This includes my landline.If I am watching a video why on Earth should I interrupt this to answer the phone?. I am constantly amazed by the fact that so many people seem to be slaves to their phone. If it rings they HAVE to respond

One evening my wife and I had a friend around to dinner. They took a call during dinner. We ended up having to leave the room so we could contuinue our convesation at a normal speech level!

Yet I see couples and groups of friends who seem perfectly happy to carry on like this. It will be interesting to see how the etiquette of the mobile phone will evolve.

jay said...

Most of the time, I can get along just fine without the phone, mobile or land-line. Either way, they are push media that interrupt. I prefer pull media that's around when I want it.

However, phones are morphing into computer terminals. I use my iPhone for geo-location, looking things up, checking email, listening to audio books and podcasts, and more.

While I can give up the phone, I won't divorce myself from the riches of the net.

Seb Schmoller said...

I left my phone on the train on Thursday, and have hardly noticed not having it, though I use it mainly for email and text in any case, with the ringer switched off. Reading your post reminded me of Matthew Rudd's "jammer's revenge" and Art of Computer Programming Donald Knuth's explanation of why he does not have an email address. Seb

Derek said...

Also managed to avoid owning a mobile phone, although (small confession) I'm not mobile free. I borrow my partners phone for use in the disconnected parts of our house (i.e. the bathroom).
Mobile phones are, for many in my country, the only way to narrow the "digital divide". While only around 10% of the population have desktop computers, over 70% have mobile phones. I'll never be found walking around a shopping mall making a call, I am slowly starting to think about how mobile phones can be used to break the participation gap. My principled non participation stance is being whittled away, as I'm frequently found using my parters phone to access my Twitter feed and check my email while I'm indisposed.

Andy Tedd said...

You missed a couple:

11. Miserable old curmudgeon no-one wants to ring up anyway.

12. Provides good raft of excuses when oversleep and forget to deliver this morning's key note.

I am sure we can come up with a few more if we put or mind's to it.


Donald Clark said...

Guilty as charged!

Anonymous said...

It's good to have when driving alone, and sexy for affairs