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Mobile Phones: Appreciating Another World Out there

With mobile phones being such an integral part of modern culture, it takes a courageous person to raise questions about their use. One such person is my friend Geoff Robinson.

In his late thirties, Geoff’s health took a major down-turn near the end of last year, upsetting almost every aspect of his life – and which he was privately told “was probably” triggered by taking a course of a licensed antibiotic, Ciprofloxacin (though possibly exacerbated by also taking two other medicines within a few days of the antibiotic). Although somewhat better, Geoff is still recovering and dedicating a significant amount of time to questioning the safety of certain things we take for granted.

Turning his attention to mobile phones, Geoff recently posted a general information link on social media concerning the potential health risks they posed. Pleased that someone else I knew was highlighting another side to this technology, I began to feel courageous enough to share additional thoughts I had about wider aspects of mobile culture. Using the medium of this blog, this is one place where I will contribute some of my thoughts, with the intention of wrapping this up in a short piece, hopefully sufficient to capture some key points that may or may not resonate.

My three points for this post are as follows:

1) Many of us find it easy to accept that mobile phones can be a social convenience (and convenient for activism too), but it seems hard for many of us to acknowledge that they can also end up being a social nuisance, especially when used without restraint. On the one hand they allow us so much more freedom to roam while also being available, yet, this strength can also become a weakness – making them potential candidates for invading intimate conversations, stripping our relaxation time, and startling us with the latest ring tones.

2) This one is a question: Why do some mobile phone users assume that those, like me, who choose not to use one are hard to contact? In every instance where this belief is held, I’ve found that the effort to make a call doesn’t seem to have been made. Yet, it isn’t infrequently that many of us hear the following statements when unable to communicate with a mobile phone contact:

a) “Oh so sorry – I wanted to return your call but my phone got stolen and I lost your number. Can you text it me?”

b) “My battery ran out, I didn’t get your message until it was too late”.
and of course…
c) “So sorry, man. I ran out of credit, and wasn’t able to get my voice mail.”

I would go so far as to say that being contactable has less to do with the technology we carry, or not, and more to do with an attitude of mind!

Onto point 3!

3) Sometimes mobile phone non-users are pressured by their mobile phone buddies to get one, or pressure one another to keep their mobile on in all circumstances! Thus, if as a user, you are tempted to pressurise your friend to get a mobile or to always have it on, please do be mindful that in today’s world those of us who tend not to use a mobile phone, or only use one wisely are a minority. We’ve probably been feeling the pressure to get one for a while, if we haven’t already done so bearing in mind the glossy, repetitive, corporate advertising flung at us, and have thus probably made our decision with due thought.

Another approach that may be more interesting to consider for each of us would be to ask how it might be possible to accommodate everyone of all beliefs and lifestyles as best possible. To consider this, we may want to switch off our mobile phone for a few minutes, take a deep breath, go within to introduce the question mindfully and then let go. Quite possibly some kind of clarity will eventually come…

One thing I respect from many friends who have a mobile and which helps welcome those, like me who tend not to use one, is when they appreciate the sky high costs of calling their mobile phone from most landlines. Remember, if we don’t use a mobile, a landline’s what we use! These friends who deserve this given praise will either give me a landline number I can call them on (much more cheaply), or they’ll call me back using their free minutes. And if they do I’ll do my best to excuse any potential connection issues due to a poor signal!

Thank you for reading. May we honour Unity in multiplicity. May Peace be with you 🙂

Article text © Muzammal Hussain

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