Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rant about Mobile Phones

Husband and I went to see our accountant last week to sort out our tax.

I'm a bit of what Singaporeans would call 'sua-ku', meaning 'mountain tortoise' with a very limited view of what life is all about. I don't often travel on the Tube now. (I used to have to Tube and bus to and from work. Tedium.)

The thing that struck me was the sheer number of people, especially young people, walking about with their ears glued to a mobile phone. OK, a mobile phone glued to their ears, maybe.

'How soon,' I asked,'would we have babies born with mobile phones stuck to their ears?'

'Don't be silly,' said husband. 'You know that is never going to happen. What might happen is that they would be born with ears modified to fit with the shape of the phone.'

'Ha-ha,' and a few minutes later, 'What about babies born with elbows crooked to keep their phones in place?'

People do not sit and wait any more. As soon as they sit down, out comes the phone either to ring or text: WHERE ARE YOU?

Whilst we used to make provision to be punctual at appointments, many now think that they could just phone to say, 'Sorry, stuck in a jam.'

Many do not realize that time is still being wasted, whether or not one knows the person he or she is meeting is going to be late.

I must confess to being a people-watcher. I love watching people watching people. That's my 'job', to a certain extent, as a social scientist (when I am not being 'Hankie-Lady').

Now people feel ill-at-ease if they have to sit for a moment without doing anything. The phone comes out, even if just to play games. Why waste time by doing nothing when you can do something?

Just because I APPEAR to be watching the world go by, it does not mean that I am REALLY doing nothing. I think, I explore ideas, I explore a connection of ideas, I multi-task (thinking about what to cook for dinner, eg), and so forth.

Is it necessary to be 'connected' all the time? I quite like to switch off from work when I need to. Sure, I have a mobile, but it is only a means of communication between family members in times of emergencies.

The mobile phone is something that has ostensibly freed us to do some things when in reality they have chained us to our work. It has made it more difficult for us to compartmentalize our lives.

Which is better? There was an occasion when a colleague went on holiday. He refused even to disclose where he was going. When 'his' work needed urgent review, action and decision (by a printer, in this case) we were at a total loss.

It meant that those of us not on holiday had to put all our own work on hold to sort out the mess he left us in. I felt that was very unfair to us.

At another place of work, before the advent of the mobile phone, we often made exhaustive lists of where we could be located in times of emergencies while on holiday. Colleagues were briefed on matters which might crop up in our absence.

This was critical when we worked for corporate clients. Sometimes only we have the information required by a client to make some crucial time-sensitive decisions. But colleagues and clients respected our time off and did not phone if things could wait till after the holiday.

These days, some working parents are on-call 24/7 even while on holiday. That is what I would call a paradigm shift.

No wonder their children feel that they too must have a phone plastered to their ears.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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