Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No, I Said Nomophobia, Not Homophobia

At the beach, and on the phone

At a streetside food stall I regularly passed one trip there was a johk (rice porridge) cart run by a man around my age and his younger helper.  The older man conducted business the entire time while on his cell phone, regardless of how busy things got.  I mean continually.

One morning as he was ladling johk into a take-away bag, cell phone squeezed between his shoulder and double chin, he impulsively turned his head to speak to a customer and lost his hold on it. It fell into the pot of porridge.

There was a collective gasp from those around him who saw what had just happened, and the man froze, looking down into the pot. He then began wailing.  Not in anger or surprise, but as though he was in great emotional agony; as though he'd just been told his children had all been hit by a bus.

Grabbing the ladle from his partner he quickly fished the phone out of the pot of viscous liquid, but it was, naturally, too late.  A thick layer of porridge covered the device, dripping off of one of the lower corners as he held it up, mournfully.  One woman looked at it and then to the pot of porridge and walked away, evidently not wanting her lunch enhanced by the added ingredients the device probably added to the soup.

Using a cell phone while driving has been outlawed here in the US, also, but you still see it happening multiple times a day.  Even "hands free" speaker and ear bud accessories are a danger, I think, although I do use the ear piece myself sometimes; just a quick confession so as not to sound too hypocritical about it.  If they were deemed illegal I'd be inconvenienced, but I'd stop using one.

A news article ran online the other day about how dependent we've become regarding cell phones and other communication devices, and I agree 100%.  The new term being added to the language here is "nomophobia" - the fear of being without your cell phone, without credits, being out of coverage range, etc. There's been such an intense media push to be connected 24 hours a day that we're apparently losing the ability to simply hush up, and I personally think that's to our great loss.

Repeating an image, but there are some perks of ownership

A study in Great Britain reports that 85% of people were in fear of being without their cell phones, for whatever reason.  That number was a good 20 clicks lower just a few years ago.  There's something out of whack here, folks. Should memory serve the term from the Native American Hopi "Koyaanisqatsi", meaning "life out of balance" applies here. It's also the first part of a cerebral film trilogy, but that's way off topic.

Texting, tweeting, voice mail, email, social media forum (read: Facebook) and streaming media all have their place, but they ought to be on our own schedule and terms, and let's face it: nobody's day is really enhanced by knowing that someone they know just took a bite of bagel at Noah's at First and Townsend Streets, complete with a mini-map and GPS coordinates.  "My car just broke down in a dangerous area and I need help" qualifies, but that's what the cell phone was designed for, wasn't it?  I've actually seen someone that I'm "Facebook friends" with post a similar message on Facebook instead of calling someone.  That's sad.

A sponsored student's new phone in March

This last trip I had the choice of providing cell phones to a few of the students I sponsor there.  While this may completely blow my argument against the tech phenomena I confess: I purchased them for four of the kids.  Now nearing the end of my time helping them with school (the program officially takes them off the rolls when they reach 18) they'd all shown themselves to be responsible budding adults, so I replaced two broken ones and purchased two a couple for those who didn't have them. 

Granted, these are extreme luxuries for those living in what most of us would consider poverty conditions, but many there had them.  That's social and cultural pressure at it's most insidious, I'd say. They won't always have the money for "top up" credits, but they were most pleased to have them, period.

The refreshing part is that they didn't immediately rip them from their packaging and isolate themselves from the rest of us, thumbs flying over the tiny keyboards. They were all extremely pleased with them, but they put then into pockets and purses and we continued with the rest of the day we had planned.  Ever had lunch with someone who couldn't hold a conversation without saying "hold on a second" every other sentence so they could interact with their cell?  It's disturbing enough that I always mention it, and if it continues I've been known to excuse myself, offer to meet up again when they can do it with their phone off and re-join the real world.

One exception this trip was with a boy who'd transferred his SIM chip from his old phone with the badly cracked display into his new phone, only to have his mother call 15 minutes later to check up on him and remind him he still had homework to do, even if he was out with his sponsor and chaperon for the afternoon.  That was proper usage; something most seem to have forgotten as they've been swept away by the flood of electronic flotsam and jetsam.  

OK. Rant over.  Enjoy your day, and try to look up as often as possible from whatever screen it is you're in currently in front of to do so!


Christian said...

The mobile phone dropping into the porridge made me laugh. I find it impolite to talk or message on the phone when being in the company of someone.


khunbaobao said...

Out of respect I didn't laugh when it happened (and few did around me) but it was definitely a loss for him.

In addition to being in an appointment, meeting or in a store I silence my phone or have it on vibrate. The key people in my life know if it's REALLY important to call twice in a row, and then I'll excuse myself and go return the call. Otherwise, the fool thing is a convenience for ME, not a millstone. I agree it's disrespectful to make someone feel less important by playing with a phone.

Anonymous said...

Every time I'm waiting in line at the bank someone's phone will ring LOUDLY playing Beethoven's fifth or the star spangled banner for 30 seconds. It used to be that displeased glares would shame people into common sense in these the social disrupter just glares back and carries on a shouting conversation as if they are the Sun King and everyone around them are mere peasants. Grrrr...

khunbaobao said...

My guess? That glare that you get back is from that overall sense of entitlement people seem to lord over others, as you commented. I neglected to mention those who carry on conversations - sometimes about the damnedest things - before a captive audience. Thanks for adding that!