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  • News

We’re slaves to our smartphones

Monday, 12th February, 2018 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
We’re slaves to our smartphones

Are smartphones having a negative impact on our daily lives? PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

We’re slaves to our smartphones

Are smartphones having a negative impact on our daily lives? PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

I GREW up in a time when having a phone in your house was a big deal. It was right up there with owning a VHS video recorder or a Sodastream (younger readers may have to Google it).

But even if you were posh enough to have a phone, there was a ridiculously long waiting list to get your line installed. This being Ireland in the 1980s, it all depended on who you knew. Happily, a family friend worked for Telecom Eireann so he managed to pull a few strings and push a few buttons to make it happen.

We came home from school one day and there it was in the hall – a telephone we could finally call our own. Our enthusiasm was only slightly dented when we were told that we had to ask our parents’ permission to make a call – and only then if it was absolutely necessary!

Having a phone at home changed everything. There would be no more treks to the nearby stinky phone box if we wanted to make a call. All we needed were friends and relatives who also had phones, although they could be hard to come by.

Fast-forward a few decades and the humble landline is now the poor relation in the world of communications; usurped by the so-called smartphone and all its technical wizardry. Many of us no longer bother with a home phone, save for those who still live in pockets of the country with poor mobile network coverage.

Incredibly, I recently learned that it’s now considered bad phone etiquette to call somebody at home without texting them first to see if they’re free to talk. That’s what we’ve been reduced to by a society that has made it easier to communicate, yet discourages us from doing so in any meaningful way.

Mobile phones, once the exclusive preserve of so-called ‘yuppies’, are now as prevalent as the toothbrush. We don’t really like our children having them, yet we fear not being able to contact them if they leave the home without one.

The smartphone is a constant distraction in our lives, making it impossible to leave work at work – or even home at home. You are always contactable, even though people don’t seem to call to talk as much these days. If you don’t respond to a text, WhatsApp or Facebook message within five minutes, people just assume that you’re annoyed with them. Either that or you’ve had a terrible accident.

God forbid that your battery dies or even – horror of horrors – you leave your phone turned off. And the stock reaction if a phone gets lost or dropped down the toilet is usually: “Everything I had was on it.”

When you think about it for a moment, it’s a pretty sad reflection on our lives that we have all become such slaves to our smartphones. 

Something to give up for Lent, perhaps?

 

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