love & hate

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I’ve always had an intense relationship with the telephone. It was an epiphany of Damascene proportions when I realised that, as a young & naïve telesales guy, I could indeed be tall, dark & handsome on the phone, and some well-chosen words really could get me anywhere. Well, at least through to the hiring manager. The phone represented a symbol of opportunity, it was going to get me to where I wanted to be, and, as such, you had more chance of seeing the Statue of Liberty without her torch than me without a phone glued to my ear.

Sadly, as is the way with many things, the relationship was to sour and by middle-age I was filing for divorce. The additional must-have functions, phone as camera, the need to no longer remember numbers, the texting without speaking, caller-recognition, the inability of anyone I needed to get hold of to ever answer, all left me a little cold, but, if I were honest, it was the fact that everyone now had a mobile phone and everybody, but everybody, was on it all the time. Unlike me. Any longer.

Mind, not that anyone’s actually speaking on the phone any longer. In a recent survey of 4000 users, a third of respondents admitted they hadn’t used their smartphones to make a telephone call, or even take a call, in the last week. However, over 35% did check their phones for messages after they’d gone to bed, and 10% of them reached for the device first thing in the morning, as soon as they awoke and before they did anything else.

Smartphones have now morphed into life’s essential tool and everywhere I look, I see young & old-ish alike, staring blankly into scrolling screens, apparently seeking confirmation of their every action & decision. Two ‘start-up’ pals (Young Turks), are building very similar apps whereby you’re able to ask either your own community, or the whole world, for their opinion on what you’re currently wearing, or what you intend to wear tonight on the hot-date, or for that killer interview on the morrow. WTF. Just look in the mirror and make your own mind up. Trust me, if there’s no follow-up date or second interview, I suspect it has precious little to do with the combination of cheques & chintz.

With the self-confidence & self-worth of our younger generations being at an all-time low, the last thing we need is another app to compound the issue. Cyber-bullied children are now so addicted to the dopamine hit of the message-ping that they’re unable to turn-off the phone even though they know it’s another torrent of systematic abuse. They even check-in during the wee hours to make sure nothing’s changed and that they’re still being bullied. In a similar vein, do we really need any more sensory-deadening ‘shoot ‘em up’ games, or yet another obesity-encouraging take-away delivery app? The barrel that was once our brain is now no more than a sieve, and our past lives remain a forgotten memory only recovered when revisited on social media timelines.

Thirty years ago I never found myself loitering outside a telephone box, 2p coin in hand, desperate to phone you to let you know I was going to be two minutes’ late. But that’s exactly the banal, trivial reason we use our ubiquitous mobile phone for. And we do so to look busy & important. And we do it at the expense of everything: friends, family, fun, our future. Our addiction knows no bounds and could it be the intention of the powers-that-be, both publically & privately, to make it impossible to exist in today’s world without a smartphone? Now there’s a conspiracy theory for you!