NOT In Praise Of The Cellphone.

Exactly when was the last time you had someone’s undivided attention? These days, everyone is distracted. Conversation has become nigh impossible; just try talking to someone and their eyes will constantly flick downwards…towards the enslaving ‘allure’ of their mobile phone.

I don’t get it. The Big Guy in the Sky gave us ten fingers and a highly developed sense of touch so we could savour life to the full. Our hands enable us to work, play sport, caress people and things we love, cuddle our babies and stroke friends who are suffering. With them we can create great art, sew beautiful clothes, arrange flowers and write poetry.

But what do we do with them instead? We simply abuse the privilege by choosing to repeatedly stab at a tiny pad hundreds (if not thousands) of times every day to send texts or emails. The mobile phone has become an artificial extension of our arms, a silly lump of plastic that we are addicted to caressing far more than any lover. Lose it, and you begin to lose your mind – it’s akin to bereavement.

I’ve written in the past that bars and restaurants should ban disruptive small children. Now I’m willing to add another item to the banned list: the frigging smartphone.

When the phone-obsessed doofuses arrive at a cafe or pub, restaurant or dining room, what is the first thing they do? They don’t ask for the menu, they lay down their little bastard gadget on the table, right next to them, with the screen facing up so they can monitor emails, incoming texts or calls. And even if in silent mode, a phone has become the uninvited guest at every table, noisily signalling it’s presence with a series of bleeps, angry vibrations or chimes, accompanied by flashing lights, and it’s the technological equivalent of a screaming toddler, demanding constant monitoring and attention.

And as in so many ways, conventional manners have gone out of the window. These days, the person sitting opposite you is guaranteed to interrupt you by peering down at their precious plastic pal, mumbling: ‘Just ignore me, I must reply to this’ before tapping away for several minutes. The result? You’re left feeling far less important than what’s happening on their phone, and I personally have to suppress a strong desire to take the thing, grab it’s offending owner, and insert it roughly straight up their lardy arse.

Back when a telephone was something that lived on a small table in the hall and which was used only for emergencies or weekly chats with far-flung relatives, my mum would decree that when in company, I should pay attention and look interested. I should never speak when others were talking. I should speak only when spoken to. Those basic rules have vanished for ever as we carry on cyber conversations while eating, during sex (what??), on dates, in the cinema, theatre and while watching TV.

Also, if we’re honest, most stuff we receive and send on phones is utter crap. The phone has become a barrier to direct, simple conversations and primary experiences. Selfies scream: ‘Look at me; I must be important, because I’ve photographed myself.’ No, it just means that you’re a narcisistic, self-absorbed cretin that thinks (wrongly) that others will be enthralled at the sight of their ugly faces.

Of course phones have their uses, but when did they become something we couldn’t live without? Why is a phone more important than a face-to-face chat? An endless flow of tweets, emails, texts and images seems to have become a substitute for real conversation and feedback; interaction that involves letting the other person speak and responding in real time.

Conversations ebb and flow, they can be heated and then cool down. All a text or a tweet allows you to do is react in brief stabs, banner headlines, shorthand comments.

In several shops I was pleased to read signs announcing: ‘We will not serve anyone on a mobile phone.’ Excellent idea, and quite right! I’d like our restaurateurs and cafe owners to ban phones. I’d like to see bars insist they are checked into the cloakroom. And they should definitely be banned in all secondary school classrooms. By allowing teenagers to take their devices into class we are ensuring the next generation will be so dependent on these addictive props they will lack any social skills and be even more unemployable. More than now, actually.

What’s going on out there? Have you all gone mad?

Just text me and let me know…




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