Those people who know me well will tell you I reach a point where the natural curmudgeon in me makes me rile against accepted trends and movements. I just fight the accepted norm for the hell of it as part of my nature – which I recognise and try to control most of the time.
However, in this case, I know I’m probably more like Canute attempting to hold back an inexorable tide of data and connectivity. However, I am beginning to think the unthinkable and ask – ‘why do I need my mobile phone?‘
Even the question seems radical and potentially stupid in today’s world. However, I can remember a time when I managed perfectly adequately without one as they simply didn’t exist. So am I considering the impossible ? Has time simply moved on to the point where living without a mobile is no longer an option ? I haven’t settled on that answer but it’s certainly getting more thought at present.
Mobile phones were initially sold (at least in the UK) as a safety item, something to carry in case of emergency. Now, they are an extension of your business and social life to the extent where it seems unimaginable to exist without one.
The nature of the device has changed over the same period. Communication companies made their money on calls, extending contact from the static land lines to mobile environments – making you contactable at any time for a phone conversation. However, as phone suppliers will tell you, the capability to make and receive a phone call is now a secondary if not a tertiary consideration. Calls are simply taken as read, a base requirement of a more complex handset. Most suppliers now make their profits from the provision of data services not calls or texts. The rise of the smart phone has effectively mobilised our computer rather than continuing to provide a mobile phone. With that has come the capability and more worrying the requirement to be tethered to the device in a permanently attached status.
So, what would I gain from getting rid of the phone? After some thought, perhaps more than I had anticipated. Firstly and most importantly my location wouldn’t be permanently tracked via GPS or distance from wifi locations. My work and social email would again return to being alternative channels of controlled contact rather than an ever present flow of data. Financially if I was limiting expenditure to calls alone my costs could be significantly reduced. I might actually find time to do other things rather than the default ‘must check my emails’ position which has become the default for so many. Also, it may be quite enjoyable to be data anonymous and non-contactable from time to time.
Balanced against this what does my mobile phone give me? Well I have some useful apps (maps, contacts, social media and communication channels all presented by one device). Similarly, work issues can be dealt with quickly. I also don’t have to carry around cameras, notebooks and the rest since adopting a smart phone. The question is whether that level of convenience is worth the trade off of my privacy and sharing my personal data. Certainly contact with my other half as and when needed is a bonus – but perhaps that could be achieved in other ways.
So, I’m left thinking what alternatives exist? I suspect if I could revert to a simple phone without email or social media it may meet my needs. Alternatively, I could simply turn off data services once in a while and see how much I miss (or not) the digital river. No decisions at present, but perhaps some ground for a brief experiment or two ! Watch this space …