Fiona McCade: Why I’ve a hang-up about mobile phones
How important do you think you are? More important than the First Minister? Than the Prime Minister? Than the president of the United States? Than the secretary general of the United Nations? The managing director of the International Monetary Fund?
More important, even, than Simon Cowell?
You’re entitled to think that you’re important, even if, in the scheme of things, you’re probably not. By all means, quietly think that the world would stop spinning without you. I don’t have a problem with that, but I need to ask you one thing: please don’t behave like you’re much more important than me.
I cannot count the number of times when I’ve been in conversation with someone, their mobile rings, and they answer it straightaway, even if I’m in mid-sentence. Sometimes, the sentence has been quite important – to me, anyway.
The implication is that the needs of the person whose phone is ringing come before the needs of the person who is talking. The priorities are as follows: their needs, their caller’s needs … then me. This behaviour also suggests that what I’m already saying can’t be as interesting or important as what the caller might possibly say, and that doesn’t make me feel good.
Thankfully, rather than being the one, lone freak who still believes that a conversation in the hand is worth two on a Nokia, it looks like I’m not the only person who objects to being constantly sidelined in favour of a phone chat.
Psychologists at Essex University have just published a study which reveals that the mere presence of a mobile phone can negatively affect relationships between people. They put 37 pairs of previously-unacquainted volunteers into small booths and asked them to chat for ten minutes. In some booths, a notebook was left in clear sight; in others, a mobile phone. The people getting to know each other where a phone was visible felt that their conversations were less meaningful and significant.
I’d have thought that the presence of a notebook would automatically make most people think their partner was a journalist and so trust would fly straight out the window, but no. It was the phone that made them uncomfortable. It made them question the commitment and priorities of their partner. It made them wonder: is this person really listening to me, or are they going to drop me the minute that thing rings?
I’ve never done a scientific study, but I believe that there’s a direct correlation between a person’s use of a mobile phone and their desperation to believe they are important. Look at me!, they’re saying. People call me! I’m popular!
The point they’re missing is that the human being in front of them also wants to talk to them – at least, they did before that bleedin’ phone rang – and they don’t deserve to be ignored.
I doubt very much that the Dalai Lama carries a mobile, but even if he does, I bet you anything he wouldn’t answer it in mid-conversation – even if you were boring him stiff. The kind of people who always have to take absolutely every call are deeply insecure. If the Last Supper happened today, Judas’s phone would be sitting there on the table, unsettling everyone, and he’d always be saying: “I need to take this one, lads”. But at least he’d go outside to do it.
I’m sick of being left to twiddle my thumbs and roll my eyes while ever-so-important companions find the lure of their ringing phone impossible to resist. Seriously, resist it, can’t you? I’m RIGHT HERE. Before mobiles, people didn’t rush out to use public pay phones every few minutes, did they? So admit it; you’re not taking this call because it’s important. You’re taking it because you can.
Have some respect. I’ve decided to spend some of my precious time with you, so make the most of it. I’m just as important as you.
Sadly, I’ve realised that with certain people, if I want to have their full attention when we’re trying to talk, it’s actually better to call them – to say: “I’m leaving”.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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