|Swap your iPhone to a Why phone|
Hang up on smartphones and talk to actual people
Remember the opening scene in the classic science fiction film, 2001 A Space Odyssey? Where the ape ancestors find that some bugger’s dumped a large black monolith outside their home while they were asleep, driving them to violence and murder.
That’s roughly how I feel about my new smart phone.
The damn thing insists on speaking to me and appears to know what I’m up to, or intending before I do. It’s like being stalked by HAL 9000, and that really didn’t end particularly well.
I used to have a phone that was black plastic and sat on a desk in our family home. No matter what happened, we never lost it. There was some sort of revolution in telephones, but I’m not sure exactly, you see I was either in the notorious radio black spot of the English mountains, where a signal was even less common than sunlight, or in Africa.
Then, on arrival in Brussels, I was given an oblong piece of ugly plastic and I formally joined the modern world. This phone wasn’t smart, even by the standards of the day, but I soon learned to misspell text messages and dial the wrong number.
But it did mean that I was connected, in the grid, contactable. Like many modern ideas, it sounds rather good on paper, but it was, like so much of modernity, rubbish.
It is no coincidence that, looking back over my life, that my happiest times were when a phone would have been about as useful as a copy of the ‘Gordon Brown Guide to Smiling.’ Who needs a phone if you’re enjoying yourself? Who needs one if you’re doing something interesting?
You see, there’s one tiny issue. I don’t want to be contactable by humanity; I want to be left in peace and quiet.
Instead I’ve got a phone that talks to me. This I can accept, we live in a world where cars lecture us about our habits in a variety of grating voices, but this phone initiates conversations. That’s a step too far. Perhaps they’ve evolved past consciousness to compulsive neediness, like a reality show contestant, or Geri Haliwell.
The phone also ‘engages you with your globally interconnected world’. Basically, this means that I can use Twitter (a way of communicating with people you don’t really want to meet) and Facebook (a way of communicating with friends you don’t really want to meet).
The end result can be seen all around, as groups of young folk, with their lives ahead of them, gather in public and… whip out their phones and type away, hardly sparing a glance, much less a word, with the people they’re ‘socialising’ with.
Thus our devices disconnect us from real human contact. We’ll be dreaming of electric sheep next. Then the fun really starts.
This is the beginning of our brave new world, where we are connected to everything, but in touch with nothing human.
The phenomenon has also been described in a book, Bowling Alone, published in 2000, from an original essay from 1995, after the author noticed a decline in the number of bowling clubs in the US. Starting off by considering this a change in leisure activity, the author, Robert Putman, discovered that there was a widespread decline in people’s involvement in community groups, and more worryingly, political interaction.
That’s our future, typing mindlessly on our phones while our politicians tell us that Rome is not on fire.