I recently posted a whinge about irresponsible mobile users*. I hope I made it clear that I am not against mobiles themselves or mobile users as a group. I have a mobile myself and take it with me wherever I go. It fulfills a number of important functions in my life and I would feel lost without it. But let’s not get mystical about this: if I were deprived of my mobile I would find substitutes for its functions. A mobile is useful, “essential” only inasmuch as you make it so. Life is possible without it.
My current mobile is a Nokia 9300 Communicator (see illustration). It is my alarm clock, my calendar, my address book and my spreadsheet; when I travel I can switch its clock to the local time of cities all over the world; it creates all kinds of documents from shopping lists to blog entries; it can send and receive text messages; it even makes and receives phone calls. That is just a partial list.
How did I manage before I had this wondrous instrument? Perfectly well. I had alarm clocks, calendars and notebooks; I used wired phones to make and take calls. These facilities all worked perfectly well but not quite so conveniently and not in such a tiny portable format.
Perhaps I am an unusually enthusiastic mobile user. I have friends who use their mobiles reluctantly, regarding them as a necessary evil. I even have a friend who doesn’t have a mobile at all. This doesn’t worry me. I am no mobile evangelist: as far as I am concerned, if you don’t have room for a mobile in your life then you might as well save your money.
But millions of people around the world do have room for a mobile in their lives and find it both useful and life-enhancing. For every one who uses his or her mobile to send inane texts, to say “I’m on the bus” or to play fashion games, there are dozens who use it wisely and well. In any case, it is not up to me to criticise others for the way they use their mobiles. People express their relationships in all sorts of language whether face to face, in writing or by mobile.
The nuisance is not so much inconsiderate mobile users as inconsiderate people full stop. People who annoy you with their mobiles are probably annoying in other ways as well. Their mobile simply provides them with another way to express their inconsiderate nature.
*American readers may prefer to mentally translate the term mobile into cellphone.