January 08, 2014

Are Mobile Phones Irritating Social Exclusion Devices?

Have you noticed the people who seem to have nothing better to do than stand around, or wander aimlessly through your local streets or supermarket, nattering on their mobile phones?

They are the people who have their phone glued to their ears for hours at a time, and are obviously talking to someone on the other end of the phone who equally seems to have little else to do other than talk to someone on the other end of the phone for hours at a time.

The young lady next to me on Witham station, judging by the strange (and worrying) colour of her skin, was probably talking to a young lady with equally strange coloured skin sitting behind the desk of her local tanning parlour and who also had little else to do, except study her nails and discuss skin colour with the young woman on Witham railway station.

Am I being unfair in laying most of this behaviour on women? A quick head count while waiting for my train revealed four women on two platforms with their mobile phones glued to their ears apparently talking to the same person, unless by some strange magic they managed to hang up unseen and dial another number. By this I don't mean all four women were talking to the same person in a conference call - at least I presume they weren't. What I meant was, the person on the other end was the same person throughout the time I saw them on the phone -- Oh, You know what I mean.

Men do spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone and upset and bore a lot of bystanders in the process but it is women, and young girls, who seem to have it down to an art form.

To be fair, on my way home from London, an older man sat in the same carriage as me and spent most of a 45 minute journey holding the tiny microphone attached to the lead of his headphones close to his mouth while he spoke in a louder than usual voice to it about completely mundane and frankly boring stuff. What the person on the other end was doing was beyond me - painting the next masterpiece in oils perhaps? They can't have been listening to such drivel, surely?

While I'm on a roll (because that's what I feel this is), what became of bluetooth headsets? All these women and boring middle-aged men taking up the airwaves with copious amounts of nothing are either wearing headphones or holding the phone to their ears. Bluetooth headsets seem to be reserved for men over a certain age. They are the ones, often taxi drivers or overweight 50-somethings, that look like they've had a cyborg part grafted to the side of their heads. That little device in their ear says, "Look at me. I'm modern and technical and down with the crowd. And I'm so popular I have to wear this device so I can speak to my minions while I'm doing other stuff." Mind you, the little device in their ear is only speaking to them. To the rest of us they look like middle-aged tossers.

Mobile phones seem to have extended the capability of gossip in women, and inane boring chat in men, to something beyond the personal, beyond human interaction. Now you can say, "Oooh, you'll never guess what?" wherever you are and whenever you are. You don't have to wait until you see someone. Not only that but you can include a carriage full of passengers in your conversation by talking inappropriately loudly to the irritation of everyone else around you (not that you'll realise this - you'll be so engrossed in your own selfish thoughts and behaviour). The woman who sat in front of us on the way to London discussed her family very loudly for about 20 minutes, explaining to her friend afterwards, who she had largely ignored for most of the journey, "That was my dad. I have to shout, he lives in Spain." I kid you not.

Still, if silence is your thing, you can negotiate the countless youngsters wandering around with their arms and hands extended in front of them with thumbs that can outperform our nearest primate relatives and who may well evolve into a species that looks like they're holding something even when they're not ... thumbs bouncing up and down on invisible keys. They are so absorbed in the little screens in front of them, they even have to download apps to replace their attention and eyesight.

I'm quite happy to revise my thinking about this subject if you can give me reasonable cause to do so. In the meantime I'm happy to rant and to grow into one of the grumpy old men I so admired on TV some years ago. You might not agree with me but I know I'm right.

Besides, this is my blog and I can write what I like.

Happy New Year and Bah, humbug.

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