Our phone obsession is less than smart
I've never been one to care what people have, or don't have. Well, sometimes I care whether they have brains, intellect, manners and, OK, a little taste would go a long way in my book, too. But I recently stumbled upon someone who doesn't have one particular thing, and I was surprised how shocked I was. I met a guy who doesn't own a mobile phone.
That's right. No mobile phone. Even my frail grandma and low-tech dad have one, despite being practically next to their landlines all day, every day.
I think my first reaction was pretty well concealed, as I didn't let out a shrieking scream or anything of that sort. I mean, these days it's hard to find people with no smartphone. But no mobile phone at all? I've been mulling over the fact that this seemingly normal, nice, sane, intelligent and — dare I say — cute guy doesn't have a mobile phone. I had thoughts that maybe he just didn't want to take my number or give me his. That is possible, but that's a column for another day, and we won't get into that now.
For now, let's just pray to the Madonna and believe that he really doesn't carry a mobile. We've been communicating via email and Skype from time to time, so it's not like he has shut off the world and lives in seclusion. But the point isn't about why he doesn't have a phone; it's more about why this first unsettled me a little too much. How could I, right away, associate the lack of a piece of technology with a negative opinion of someone? Has a mobile phone become such a necessity that I can't imagine my own life without one?
I made a mental list of the ways my world would end if I didn't have my smartphone with me at all times. How could I work? How could I order stuff? How would I spy on people? How could I post endless photos of my dancing niece? How would my friends feel if I didn't respond to them within one second? Would it break our friendships forever?
But this guy seems to be managing just fine with emails and Skype for work. I guess he must plan everything well in advance, as there isn't much space for last minute or impromptu decisions.
Then the more I thought about it, I began to think a life without a mobile phone could be something good. If we were not as available as most of us are now, our lives might be more simple, and we might just be happier. Of course, wiser ones would say, you can control your phone consumption. But ask anyone with a smartphone and they will say it's impossible to stop themselves from responding to calls, emails, messages, Facebook posts — and everything in between — the millisecond they receive them.
It might even be better to wait to respond, especially when it comes to work emails. It's like our phones have this power over us, and that scares me a bit. We are spending loads more time on them than we should.
These devices are designed to keep us connected, but they don't guarantee that we will make real connections.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not constantly on my phone. I am not as bad as some I've met. My head is not down glaring at the phone all day, and my thumbs are not tired out like kids these days. I know to stop at the dinner table or when with friends.
But I still think it would be good idea to stay away from my phone more, setting proper times for sorting through work-related emails and messages rather than finding my way to a toilet at night to see if anyone has responded to my plea to have the office windows cleaned.
But maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Onsiri Pravattiyagul writes about contemporary culture for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.