Melancholy of the mobilised: The rise of rudeness and the death of leisure

“I don’t even own a cell phone”

Jack Nicholson

People are genuinely surprised when I tell them that I don’t have a mobile phone.

I suspect more than a few think that I am impolite and that I do in fact have a phone, but I don’t care to give them the number.

It’s an even split between those who confide that they wish they didn’t have one and the rest who can’t understand how I organise my life. Especially the business part of my life.

I’ve never really been into mobile phones. Now I just see them as a silly bill, a leisure stealing device and socially acceptable form of rudeness (that should not be accepted by anyone).

Thanks to the mobile phone millions of workers never get to leave the office. They are contactable and contacted by their employers at night, very early in the morning and all through the weekend.  No single modern inconvenience has stolen so much leisure time as the mobilisation of the phone. This has become quite extreme now that phones are smart enough to cope with emails, the internet, and video calling.  The phones may be smarter, but we are getting dumber as we forfeit our leisure and further enslave ourselves to the machine and the corporation.

It is interesting to note how many organisations are now requiring their employees to pay some or all of the costs of their phone. In many outfits the company pays a modest contribution towards minutes and data with a contribution towards a glamorous handset. The employee may use the phone for personal use if they agree to pay the additional charges. Young people are particularly excited about getting a work iPhone and seem not to appreciate that it comes with a liability of $85-200 of their own money every month.

Cost aside my main objection to free range phones is that they encourage rudeness and impolite behaviour. For some reason nobody thinks twice about sending a text, a tweet, a message or making a call at an hour that would have been deemed unacceptable when the phone was still attached to the house. When we knew the location of the phone we must have mentally projected what we expected another family might be doing at that point in time. As a result calling at dinner time or when a person might have to get up from their bed was not common place. Now it appears to be acceptable to contact other people whenever a whim takes our fancy.

The availability of the phone also gives rise to hostility. In anger or haste we can fire off a poorly considered message when previously we would have had to wait until we got ourselves to a phone. Oftentimes the commotion and emotion would have dissipated before we had the chance to respond to our base impulse.  Our messages are often confused and in emails. Shorter messages like texts or emails sent from tiny inconvenience key pads are far worse at conveying the intended meaning.  Accidental hostility and acts of offence are all too easy with a smart phone.  This says nothing of our open hostility to a stranger talking loudly to them self on the bus. Unfortunately as mobile users we ourselves are equally guilty of unwitting acts of rudeness in social situations.

During dinner at a fine restaurant it is quite common to see someone take a call or check a message as their companion is mid stride in an interesting and engaging conversation. The message: any beep from my phone (entirely likely to be junkmail) is more important to me than you are!

Worse still is the integration of phones and cameras. This has publicised our lives like never before. The invasion of privacy is immense. One moment we are acting privately at a small social gathering and the next moment we being disciplined by our boss for inappropriate activity bring the company into disrepute. All because some acquaintance paparazzi snapped and shared.  We no longer have control over the images of ourselves that are shared. Unfortunately the ones that travel furthest and fastest are usually the most unfortunate moments of our lives. No longer do we gather just with friends. Now we dance in a giant glass bowl!

The mobile phone is the public window to previously intimate affairs.

Before I conclude I’d like address the myth that we need mobile phones in order to be safe. I rarely have a mobile signal during the most dangerous pursuit that I regularly participate in  – mountain biking. My highest risk of death or serious injury in modern life is at the hands of the automobile, and so I should definitely not be trying to use my mobile when driving around or walking city streets. If fear of personal attack is of concern and praise not the security of your mobile phone instead consider the greater risk it presents.  Who faces more personal security risk the person in the underground car park distracted by smart phone emails or the unphoned highly alert individual who moves swiftly and does not loiter getting to their vehicle? If you were to be jumped by some fiend do you really think you will have the opportunity to make a call for help from the trunk of their car? Here a pound of prevention is far better. Last I fear that the mobile phone is a very poor weapon that is consuming purse space that could better be filled by a heavy brick. The mobile phone then is neither a safety nor a security strategy. It is inefficient, rude and time stealing.

We have gained nothing unhooking our phones from our house.  Toss the phone from your pocket. Eradicate the unsightly bulge. Reduce the radiation leeching into your spongy undercarriage and precious cranium. Find more effective ways to be safe. Claim back your leisure. Retain your wealth. Don’t let the machines steal your manners. Plug your phone back into the wall, connect directly with your friends and embrace your freedom.


2 thoughts on “Melancholy of the mobilised: The rise of rudeness and the death of leisure

  1. You’re focusing on mobile phones, but all phones have the drawback of interrupting the receiver of the call. That is why email (and letters in times past) is superior. People can choose when to interact.

    I use a Google Voice number through the Talkatone app on my iPod Touch for calling out.

    • I’m a luddite who doesn’t own an iPad or have any clue what Google Voice even is (perhaps I’ll google it!) You are obviously a very savvy chap! The main point I was driving at is that almost all of this technology interrupts basic social connections like the couple at dinner playing on their phones instead of taking an interest in their companion and talking to each other. Sad indeed!

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