The human fascination with the non-telephone elements of mobile phones is a bizarre phenomenon.
I recently had an informal brainstorming (or chat down the pub, for a more accurate description) with a friend about ways in which we could get rich quick. The only answer we came across that was in any way legal or moral was to make an App. I mean, every day you open the papers and read that some spotty, computer-literate teenager has just sold a few hours of precious time on his computer (the opportunity cost of which was essentially masturbation) to some multinational firm for £30m. They are insanely lucrative because the consuming public gobble them up like Jenna Jameson in a hot dog factory.
It’s no new thing though, most of you (or ‘men’ in other words) can probably relate to sitting in a ‘quiet place’ and playing Snake on your Nokia 3210 until you got pins and needles in your legs. The seeds of our mobile fascination were sown there. But when did it grow into such a hypnotic business?
I must confess to being no angel myself in this regard. Indeed if technophilia was a crime, I’d be one of those social pariahs being hauled up in front of a court as part of Operation Yewtree (or uTree as Apple would call it) and locked up. My girlfriend has tired of throwing icy glances at me as another passing observation of hers is ignored in favour of reading an email or checking Twitter. I have a more detailed knowledge of what Facebook friends who I haven’t seen for a decade are doing than the schedules of my nearest and dearest. I’m an attention-retarded sponge for inane and useless information.
But I have my limits.
For starters, I will not read my phone while walking down a busy pavement. For the majority of Londoners, this must be up there with their biggest pet hates. Or at least it would be if the majority of Londoners weren’t actually doing the fucking thing in the first place.
It has got to the stage where walking down the street has become some sort of nightmarish Atari game from the 80s, where your only options are to duck and weave beyond the gormless hoards of head-down oncoming traffic. If it were a more modern game, then you’d be able to press button A and smash the bloody thing out of their hands. Or B and trip them over. Or Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start (someone, somewhere is sad enough to get this reference)… And knock their lights out. Hadouken indeed.
We’re so obsessed with what’s going on a foot in front of our face that we are totally unaware of what’s actually going on around us. In September, a man jumped onto a packed commuter train in San Francisco brandishing a gun and waved it around the aisle before shooting someone. Police were astonished that, until he actually pulled the trigger on the weapon, not one fellow passenger even noticed anything untoward. They all had their faces in their phones, entranced by pointless information.
Another astounding insight into our obsession with the allure of the shiny screen comes in the form of a recent statistic in which 19% of people, or roughtly 1 in 5 for the numerically challenged, have dropped their phone down the loo.
1 in 5 people. That’s statistically one of your immediate family or a handful of your team at work. Look at them now. Yeah, I bet you can tell the one who’s done it. They’re probably the one chewing a pen with ink seeping out of their mouth. They used to come home from school, face covered in glitter, and lick windows.
I can understand reading your phone while sat ON the loo. I mean when you’re settled in for the long haul, you positively need a time-waster. I once even perused the back of a shampoo bottle because there was nothing else to read. But that’s just me. And, I suspect, quite a few more people than would care admit it. Maybe.
However, from a sat-down position, it still remains quite a challenge to actually lose your phone in the loo. I mean, aside from resting it on your Johnson, the logistics of its journey to a watery (at best) grave don’t add up. To drop your phone in the loo, you either have to be a bit ‘special’, or you have to read it while standing up and peeing. Neither scenario reflects particularly well on your mental capacity.
The long and short of it though is that, for many people, these phones are a portal to what they perceive to be a more interesting world. A narcissistic paradise where the only self-projection comes in the form of selfies and social media bragging. It seems now that going to see something amazing or experience something unique is merely a conduit to inducing peer-group envy.
Why bother enjoying the moment when you can let all your friends know how much you are enjoying it? Why bother helping avert a disaster when you can video it and get on the news? Why bother watching where you’re walking when you could be reading that oh-so-important email on the way to your office?
Oh yes, that’s why, because it prevents you from being an arsehole.
by Harry Harland