Don’t take my mobile phone away
29 Jun 2017 by Nev Haynes
Albert Einstein already predicted: “I fear the day when technology surpasses humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots left.” Steve Jobs, visionary as few of what all this technology provided, took great care to educate his children. Very few know that these were forbidden to touch an iPad, due to the pernicious effect that technology generates on the development of creativity of children, adolescents or even adults. The generation that grew up playing football, marbles or riding a bicycle has been displaced by authentic freaks with super-developed thumbs, obsessed with social networks and connected at all times to a digital network of contacts. The most cruel punishment one can inflict on a teenager is to deprive him of his mobile phone. But what happens to adults if we are deprived of our telephone?
Albert Einstein already predicted: “I fear the day when technology surpasses humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots left.”
Nomofobia (non-mobile-phobia, or phobia of being without a mobile phone) is the manifestation of the dependence we have on the mobile phone and of being permanently connected and localized. Our digital life surpasses our real life. The same people who don´t greet you on the street follow you on Facebook. A teenager publishes a photo on Instagram and after two hours has accumulated 500 likes. How can a guy who should be studying or playing sports, who has hardly met so many people in his short life, be more efficient than a public relations agency? Very simple: these 500 likes are in turn of another 500 teenagers who are permanently hooked and look for virtual social approval that they could never find in their real life. The need for others to congratulate you on your photos has detracted from the importance of enjoying the true experience.
It is not normal or healthy to feel helpless without your mobile phone. The jokes about this problem proliferate, but we continue in the same ones. A cartoon of the sinking of the Titanic and all the castaways taking pictures with their mobiles instead of swimming towards a lifeboat. An Internet cafe with all customers terrified because the only one sitting, reading a book and enjoying coffee without a laptop in front of him makes him look like a psychopath. One friend consoles another, without understanding the reason for her depression, because according to Instagram her life seemed idyllic. It is a paradox that the instrument that brings us closer to those who are far away also distances us from those closest to us.
It is a paradox that the instrument that brings us closer to those who are far away also distances us from those closest to us.
The technological revolution that we have lived in the last twenty years has been possible thanks to three elements: Internet, smartphones and applications. The positive part of this “ménage à trois” is clear. We can do almost anything from our mobile phone: bank transfers, buy almost anything or service, video conferencing or being connected to any social network in real time. If it were possible, time to time, we would let our cellphone prepare dinner or take the children to school. But let’s not go so fast. The mobile phone has evolved into an inseparable friend, but beware of false friends. Let’s portray a few enlightening cases.
We are sitting in the car, watching the pedestrians crossing the zebra crossing just in front of us. Look at the number of people crossing the zebra crossing, paying attention to the screen of their mobile phones instead of looking left or right. This habit has become so dangerous that some cities have already installed light signals on the ground, as well as vertical signs warning drivers of the danger that involves crossing with “smombies” or smartphone-zombies.
Otherwise: this time, a car driver who stopped right in front of us at a traffic light does not notice that it has turned green. We wait a couple of seconds as a courtesy for the driver to start and we see that the car continues with the brake lights on. It is almost certain that the driver has taken advantage of the half-minute of obligatory stop to send a couple of messages by whatsapp and has been absorbed in some virtual conversation, forgetting that he is behind the wheel of a car. At least this time he did it while he wasn´t driving.
Any restaurant. The diners take their respective phones, taking photos of the food, going on Twitter, making a review on Trip Advisor and smiling at their cameras while they take selfies with duck faces, returning to their natural state – their real life is much more boring that their binary lives – once they have uploaded a photo or comment. Sometimes this process can take several minutes. They are people who have met up to socialize but they only socialize with those who are not there with them at that time.
Someone walks down the street, strangely holding his phone in front of his face and then listening to a voice message that someone sends him. The next answer is sent back not long afterwards. Another recorded voice message flies toward the receiver, repeating the process over and over again. We have moved from the voice to the SMS. From SMS to whastapp. From whatsapp to voicemail. Wouldn´t it be easier to make a phone call?
Working meeting. Around a table sits half a dozen people, escorted by their mobile phones. The screens of one or more phones light up, vibrate or emit light sounds that notify their owners of an unavoidable event, of vital importance, something that cannot wait and you have to know at all costs what is, because such a life-or-death situation might require our response, our approval or that we send an “OK”.
The height of this is the appearance of smartwatches that notify “just in case” all kinds of alarms that the mobile receives and that are sent to the watch via bluetooth. An email, an event on Facebook, a job alert on LinkedIn, a message by whatsapp, a like on Instagram … the list is endless. If we already had enough with notifications of the mobile, now we have to watch the clock every time the screen of the latter is turned on. It is no coincidence that the collapse of the sales of this accessory has been disastrous. The intrusion of digital life in real life has surpassed even the most hooked users.
Big Data companies and giants like Google and Facebook promote and benefit from the nomophobia, since all information is little when offering products and services that in many cases we do not even need. The consumer society reaches its highest levels with this obsession that distracts us from what really matters: living, not sharing or publishing everything we think, say or do.
Big Data companies and giants like Google and Facebook promote and benefit from the nomophobia
But not all is lost. There is a new generation of “disconnected” people who return to their origins. The cell phone, pure and sure. No more no less. In the last MWC, the most important mobile phone event in the world, celebrated annually in Barcelona, a well-known brand of phones resurrected for its most unconditional fans one of its most successful “non-smart” feature-phones. Do you remember those jewels for nostalgic collectors? Eternal batteries, tactile keyboards to send SMSs, interchangeable housings. Like those who prefer to ride on a fixie bike, simple but effective, the “shoe-phone” does not fail. The disconnected ones prefer to limit the access to their digital life to the hours that they spend in front of their PCs. The most incredible thing of all is that they seem eccentric to the rest of us.
There is a generation that has experienced that leap from analogue life to digital life. We told teenagers about landlines, pocket game machines, Sony walkmans, black-and-white televisions, Spectrum computers, Atari games, and those first phones on cars that looked like bricks. We have experienced that mutation of all the devices towards an ecosystem that not even Stanley Kubrick himself could foresee in 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the advantage that we have after having witnessed so much change, we haven´t been able to handle such amount of technology. We have not adapted with moderation and criteria to everything that all these improvements can offer. This technological expediency can serve as a guide when it comes to educating, not forbidding, the youngest in the house, more seriously exposed to this kind of addiction that, like all addictions, is bad by definition.
All those things that a smartphone can do, can also wait. You have to see life through your eyes, not through the screen of a mobile. The telephone (and this is a revolution) is used for what we least use it: to call and talk with others. Surely even Einstein also talked on the phone from time to time.