Gina Miller asks if today’s “i” generation can still embody the proverbial maxim “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”
The hysteria and media attention around the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini has made me take note and observe “i” gadget usage over the last few weeks. The idea of people queuing outside Apple stores in these times of austerity when so many are struggling seems totally absurd to me. Even more absurd is that these individuals behave like addicts and do not question what mobile phones are doing to their lives. They just can’t wait for the next high.
My observations of “mobile junkies” started on the 21st September. During the day there was media coverage of the launch of the iPhone 5 and interviews with joyous consumers as they got their hands on these new toys. In the evening, I attended a truly inspiring concert to celebrate and publicise Peace for One Day. The concert marked the United Nations’ World Peace Day, which calls for a day of global ceasefire and non-violence. Prior to the music there were links from leaders around the world in support of the day including a speech about global action against domestic violence, an Afghan Leader in support of the day and the extraordinary director of Interpeace, Scott Webber. And what were the people at either side of me, above me, in front and behind me doing? They were texting, emailing, playing games and obsessively tinkering with their mobiles.
From the woman talking on her mobile as she steps into the road to cross without ever looking up, to the parents waiting in the playground for their children texting and emailing, the mobile has taken precedence over what we should really be paying attention to. In restaurants, couples and families do not talk to each other but instead have their mobiles in their hands as they eat and prop up mobiles or iPads playing cartoons for the children instead of talking to them. Have we lost all sense of propriety? When do we talk to each other? When do we get to know our children?
People text to ask someone out, they text to break up and they text to ask what is for supper. Trust in relationships is tested as women track their husband’s iPhones and if a partner doesn’t call or text at least five times a day then the other questions the depth of commitment or love. Children as young as seven demand iPads or mobiles from doting parents who don’t know how to say ‘no’ or instil the idea that you strive to attain the rewards of hard work. There are even reported increases in teenagers and a young adult complaining of aches and pains in their thumbs due to over-texting. 24/7 email access engenders expectations and stress that means people are never really shutting down from work mode. People on trains incessantly chatter and children get brutally attacked on their way home from school for their mobiles. All sense of privacy has been eroded as any celebrity or person in the public eye can be spied upon now that mobiles have cameras. All these negative trends are due to these gadgets but sales keep rocketing most especially amongst those who can least afford them.
I read with interest an account from a guide at the Sistine Chapel who said visitors come in, take photos on their phones and iPads and then move to the next room. No one, the guide suggested, really looks with their eyes, wonders or lingers at the beauty before, around and above them anymore. For these visitors, instead, it is all about taking the picture and instant gratification.
Whilst mobile phones keep us in touch and mean we can assure our loved ones we are safe, running late, find out about the children or ask whether grandmother is warm; this convenience appears to come at a very high price. Apple recently sold its 100 millionth iPad and reported profits of £5.08 billion in the three months to 29 September 2012. Apparently there were 2 million iPhone 5s ordered in the first 24 hours and similar figures are expected for the aggressively priced iPad mini. If you the average spend one of these new gadgets were to be conservatively calculated at £200, that gives a total spend of £400 million. Just think what a difference that amount of money would make if each person gave it instead to the extraordinary small community charities who battle at the coalface of the negative trends in our society?
The ancient three monkeys proverb associated with being of good mind, speech and action has been corrupted by gadgets and now in the modern world we turn a blind eye. We have grown an extra appendage that we appear unable to live without.
What if we all engaged in a national day of no phones or portable tablet? What if, as a social experiment, all networks were also to shut down for one day? Would we not have a different sort of ‘peace day’ that would start to rebuild our interaction, families, relationships and empathy? We would have to look into each other’s faces when we spoke and we might remember when we laughed more, talked more and maybe even tolerated more. If we took up this challenge, perhaps we might even rediscover some of our lost humanity and ‘we’ culture rather than the egotistical ‘i’ culture that sadly dominates society today.
Gina Miller, founder of Miller Philanthropy, is the host of Champions in the Community at The Hurlingham Club on 8th November 2012. For more information and to donate, go to: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/championsdinner