The Anti-Social Mobile Effect
Traveling with any type of public transportation vehicle today in a metropolitan city, one could easily assert that the common mobile use has embraced different societies and penetrated the communication practices of people of all ages. Answering a sleek mobile phone that rings, by loudly reproducing a lesser quality version of the latest music hit, while ridding a packed bus or a crowded train carriage, is considered to be common practice. At the same time, playing games with your cell phone, or calling family or friends to let them know where you are and what you will be doing next, needs no justification as to whether it might be viewed as a token of responsibility or a mechanical act of boredom. Given the fact that mobile telephony has took by storm various publics in almost every continent, finding the fine line between living a mobile-saturated life and using your mobile as a convenience tool has become the subject of colorful debates.
According to researchers, citizens of the US, Finland, Japan, Germany, Italy and the UK have become the pioneers in exploring different technological developments in relation to their everyday tasks. Surfing through the Internet over a mobile phone while ridding the metro, or answering phone calls and sending e-mails while ordering the morning’s coffee, are examples of scenes almost everyone has witnessed at some point or another. However, this new type of social network, mastered by the latest mobile technologies, does not necessarily bring people together according to some critics. People reach for their cell phones in an effort to connect with others, but the mere notion of being isolated from the rest of the world in order to reach someone on the other end of a telephone line, with whom you do not necessarily interact, contradicts the whole idea of “closeness” or “contact.” But numbers speak otherwise, as the mobile phone ownership has tremendously increased over the last two decades.
Unfortunately, as Kofi Annan’s 2000 speech to the Australian Press Club pointed out, “half of the world’s population has never made of received a phone call.” Digital divide, the technological gap the exists between the developed and developing countries of the world, has become the central point for sociologists, developers and scientists, who now speak of a digitally misplaced 50 percent that drifts further and further away from the rest of the technology-savvy half.
But, even in the midst of the heavy mobile telephony users, isolation and annoyance have recently come to destroy what some would like to translate as a new type of group dynamic. The telecom industry, powered by the new technologies that emerge, targets contemporary mobile phone customers to form an extremely technology dependent crowd. Smaller in size, carrying cameras and having wireless internet capabilities, today’s mobile phones are packed with useful or totally useless features. Only the future will determine which of those can in fact bring people together or further push forward the anti-social factor.