When mobile phones first entered our lives, towards the end of the 90s, many people were doubtful of their necessity. But those who love novelties (mostly those born Gemini or Aquarius according to astrologists) counter-argued that mobiles appeared to enable communication, to give us the ability to reach someone in case of an emergency when no landline is available (“For a time of need, in the end!”). That was a powerful argument that, gradually, won over parents’ denial to buy mobiles for their children. And this is how we ended up with more mobile phone numbers than the country’s residents, since many possess second and third phones, covert or not, often taking advantage of certain service “packages” that companies offer – enclosing in them their illegal parallel lives.
So far so good. A good-natured person would say that mobile phones, like any tool or medium, is not good or bad in itself; rather, that its being good or bad depends on its usage – as it happens with television, computers, etc. So what’s the verdict so far? Probably not very positive… Let’s take a closer look.
Observe, if you will, any group of youths today in any given circumstance. It is highly unlikely that you will fail to see someone (at least one) preoccupied with their mobile. Either they are taking self-photos (selfies) or taking photos in general; either they are posting or reporting on their activities; either they are following or sharing; either they are watching something or pressing the like button. This is how, gradually, people co-exist physically without essentially communicating. Often, they’d rather press “like” on others’ statements while seated across each other than have a conversation with a beginning and an end. They locate an open wi-fi network first and order their coffee or drink afterwards.
The tragedy is completed by the skyrocketing cost of super-modern devices, the ones that make coffee and drive children to school, combined with the inverse proportion of battery longevity, which usually dies during the day; thus cancelling the first and most basic function that mobiles were supposedly invented for – to use in case of emergency. I’m not even going to examine the possibility of not having enough credits to make a call, in case I sound too acidic in criticizing the fact that we top up 700 euro devices with 5 euro cards.
So what’s the cause of this grotesquerie? But, of course, the fact that mobile phones are now (mostly, yet not only) both a computer and a camera. Therefore, the internet has become an addiction that you can drag along anywhere you go. The programs for “processing” photos have become the necessary filters of socialization. The addiction is there because, when realization strikes, it may be too late. By then, your friend is blowing out their birthday cake candles and you’re checking how many likes the photo you uploaded, entitled “having a blast” (who is?), got in ten minutes. It’s New Year’s Eve and, instead of enjoying its first moments with your loved ones, you’re hunched over a gadget that costs the equivalent of two monthly unemployment benefits and “liking” the fireworks that signify the changing of the year in Bangkok. Your significant other throws their arms around you and you’re reading why some celebrity had a meltdown in front of the cameras. You go to Sunday lunch with your family and choose to troll the latest interview by this or that politician. You go on a day-trip and, instead of taking in the scenery by using your eyes, you photograph it manically as a background, trying to figure out which pose is the most flattering. You might as well stay home and save on gas and tolls…
I’m not one to react negatively to change; nor am I skeptical towards technology. I am, however, opposed to hyperbole and the loss of meaning. Mobile phones exist to serve a purpose: first, in an hour of need and, secondly, for fun. But, by leading us into a parallel and fake reality of supposedly unruffled and unwrinkled autistic beings who co-exist only physically, they demonstrate superbly the decadence of relationships and society. Human relationships have become far too difficult for us to further undermine them with our immature, stupidly consumerist rapture for the latest i-phone. Switch off your mobiles. Open your eyes. Real life is happening out there.