Are mobile phones changing how we interact? A personal reflection

Are mobile phones changing how we interact? A personal reflection

Posted by Cindy Hurn

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It is questioned how long does human evolution take. Are we still evolving and if so, what do we compare ourselves with in order to know? What defines evolution? Do we become more advanced, more refined?

These thoughts were musing within my mind when I noticed two young girls walking through a shopping centre. They walked without looking where they were going. Both heads bowed and focused on a small inconspicuous object. For just a moment having to see more clearly they stopped and held the object closer. I witnessed their concentration and reflection. They again picked up their pace and conversation although focus still captured by the tiny screen. Maybe not evolution in the greater sense but certainly the mobile phone is quickly changing not only society but our psychology as well. Only a few years back I may have observed those two friends on their shopping trip laughing, talking, animated as they dragged each other to different shop windows to discuss what they saw, what they wanted. In my little viewing box behind my eyes I see less animation in people.

We have all seen it and perhaps I write of you. Groups of young people walking down the street together but all or most on their mobile phones. Okay, communication is important but I have to wonder how much money they spend on tariff actually is on any value and to what avail? Are we sharing less by sharing more? Or has our sharing become more mundane, more like reporting? "I am on the train. I am in the supermarket. I am on the loo." Where are we really I wonder?

Primitive man survived by knowing where he was at all times and by being fully aware of what was around him. Then it would have been a luxury or fool-hearted to sit and dream escaping into the ethers to another place. Isn't this what we are doing? As soon as we turn our attention to the mobile whether to text or talk we loose where we are. It is said that the human mind can not be in two places at once. So, as we take our attention away from here, here disappears.

Happiness comes from learning to be in the moment.

If we are truly able to be in the moment we have arrived in a more settled part of ourselves. It worries me that the mobile phone is excusing us from not only, ever having to be where we are, but also never ever having to be alone. While food shopping I witnessed a man standing at the dessert freezer. He held the open door in one hand and talked on the phone with the other. My mind boggles at the conversation. Was he unsure of what flavor ice cream to buy or did his phone ring just as he was about to reach for the strawberry? He held that position for over five minutes. In the end I had things to do so I left him to it.

It made me think though. Is this age of instant communication and accessibility hindering our ability to make decisions? One of the signs of maturity is confidence in our decision making. This can only be achieved through trial and error. We make our decisions and learn from the outcome. With the mobile we never need to make those decisions alone. We can call any number of people and ask what they think. I saw a wife in Next shopping for her husband. On the phone she described each shirt. In times past either the wife would just get what she likes or drag the long-suffering husband with her. Now, together they are not. He makes his decision by her description. She probably still buys the one she likes.

So, are we lonelier by being more assessable to one another?

We move about our world alone yet not alone as at the touch of the button we hear a voice reassuring us that we are never alone. I have known people whose mobiles have broken or their messages diminish. They feel unsettled. Somehow unimportant. Do all the messages we receive feed our popularity, boost our confidence? Having a full diary used to do that but now of course, with regards to evolution, we expect everything now. We want immediate satisfaction. Are we loosing the delightful essence of anticipation? Before such immediacy we would look forward to meeting a friend for lunch to have a good old natter. Now we are able to catch up while simultaneously trying to tie our sneakers with one hand. What is everyone talking about?

Now, by now you must be thinking I am archaic and obviously never owned a mobile. I do, progress has not passed me by. I bought it for emergencies as I could see the sense. I have had one for five years and probably have used it less than the digits on both of my hands. To be honest, I would probably have used it more but always seem to leave it at home. You can see the shallowness of this habit. I never wanted the dependency, sort of like never taking up smoking. Also, I do not want to be assessable to anyone at anytime. Personally, I like my own space, uninterrupted thoughts. I am not against them in theory but I am concerned about the psychological damage they maybe are having. Texting is relatively new and in my therapy practice I am forever hearing about text messages. It used to be complaints of he said this or she said that, now sadly. "He texted me saying he didn't want to see me anymore." How responsible is that? The answer phone used to excuse us from human contact. To avoid guilt we called when we knew the person was not there. Now a brief text does the dirty work. So brief we don't even have to spell properly.

Are we loosing our humanity? Human contact, human to human not via electronics? Is this only the beginning? Is it technology that is taking us further away from ourselves and are we happy to go, as we don't like where we are?

Of course, there is positive in all things but it is my concern about the changes I witness in everyday life. The other night I visited a nightclub (more about that sociological study later). The music was blaring out and dotted throughout the club were young people staring into the palm of their hands. Texing or talking the point is they were not where they were. Sure, they did not have to feel their shyness or awkwardness they were otherwise occupied. It is an interesting concept we have created for ourselves. Never mind reality or making it work for you just be somewhere else.

Each time we pick up the phone we are in the in-between space.

Life is happening now.

With each key that I type I feel the presence of that pressure. I hear the birds outside quibbling for the seeds I have left them and I feel the cushion underneath move as my cat stirs next to me. I am alone and in quiet.

One of the main causes of stress is the lack of time, space and silence. Are we then creating more stress in an overstressed world by having to ask what kind of ice cream or shirt that we should buy? Or would it be a good idea to have a non-mobile time zone each day so that the habit of instant communication, company doesn't tip the balance. I am concerned about us. Children of today are growing up with never needing to be alone. But this also means as long as the mobile phone is there they will never learn to be alone and that can only lead to increased loneliness. Learning to be alone is learning to be with just yourself. It is a good place to be and there is really no need to grab the mobile and tell someone of it. Think about this habit before you too start to feel low just because it hasn't rung.

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