Last week, a cataclysmic disaster of earth-shaking proportions struck the UK, resulting in mass panic and untold trauma for the citizens of this fair isle. No, I’m not talking about a natural disaster or a Godzilla attack but the partial service outage for customers of o2, one of our main mobile network providers. Some people struggled with basic calls and the ability to send messages but it was the data outage that triggered outrage and despair. Essentially, a worrying number of people were simply lost without access to the internet on their mobile phone…for what turned out to be a little over one day.
The only people I genuinely felt bad for were emergency services or care homes who relied on o2 in some way and had their communications severely disrupted. Everybody else though? Deal with it. I’ll admit that businesses losing trade was a bad thing (especially for the smaller businesses that perhaps can’t afford to take the hit) but in general, it was those who have decided to completely bin off landlines and go mobile-only that suffered the most. Becoming overly-reliant on mobile networks and technology in general occasionally proves to be a very bad thing. Technology that we ourselves have no control over has woven itself into much of our lives to the extent that we don’t even realise how reliant we have become on it and this – for me – is a massive mistake but that’s a separate discussion for another time.
Of course, the stories of “tragedy” were all over the news with accompanying interviews of those we were supposed to feel bad for. It’s hard to take the BBC’s online news seriously however when they actually gave airtime to somebody who’s disruption amounted to missing out on placing ebay bids for a Christmas gift because he had no internet. Is this news? Is it even a real problem? My first thought was “why didn’t you just place a maximum bid on the item(s) beforehand?”. Then I wondered if this person was wanting to be online so that he could just keep bidding on something until he won, in which case I would say they had too much money and should have simply purchased said item from elsewhere without pissing about with bidding. Finally, I wondered why I was wasting any of my thoughtwaves even thinking about this pathetic excuse for a “problem”.
It’s ridiculous that a data outage and an inability to connect to the internet and the dreaded social media can reduce people to such frustration so quickly. You don’t HAVE to be constantly connected to the ‘net all the time, refreshing Facebook or flicking between favourite sites while on the move. How about having an actual conversation with a real person? How about looking out of the window on a bus rather than plonking your arse on a seat and instinctively whipping out your fancy iphone 986XR-S Pro Elite Widescreen handset and ignorant noise-cancelling Bose headphones? There’s lots happening all around us and so much detail to take in so look around once in a while and really LOOK at life and your world before it passes you by.
I personally cannot stand people who can’t exist without fiddling with their phone every few seconds or sit at a table in a restaurant without having it next to their plate, easily accessible to check their notifications. Since when did other people’s “look at me!” ego chasing Facebook statuses and inane Twitter ramblings become so important to us that we’d allow them to disrupt or sit in on other activities?
The thing I detest the most is being contactable at all times. I work as a delivery driver and my phone seems to constantly be buzzing in my pocket with incoming calls from people back at base wanting to ask me questions or add to my workload. I’ll be driving between destinations and thinking that things are going pretty well around the mid-morning mark but then the calls begin and I have people informing me of problems that need sorting (usually other people’s fuck-ups), asking me how to do stuff or telling me about shit that isn’t even on that day’s schedule. This is the curse of being expected to be accessible by phone all day. Sometimes it gets to the point where I feel like dropping the window and launching my phone out into the next ditch. If only they didn’t cost so much to buy.
And you can’t answer a phone while you are driving. I don’t know about other parts of the world but here in the UK, it’s illegal and rightly so after the rise in car accidents and deaths associated with drivers being distracted by their phone call(s). Even so, you still see countless fuckwits speeding while on the phone or looking down at their notifications as soon as they come to a halt at a red light…just what is so fucking important? If these people were to crash and hurt/kill themselves as a result of their own stupidity and lack of prioritisation then I honestly wouldn’t give much of a shit but it’s the innocent victims in other vehicles or on the pavement that tend to pay the price.
So I refrain from answering or even looking at who is calling. I COULD keep pulling over and killing the engine to answer incoming calls but a) there isn’t always a suitable place and b) answering all of these calls just slows me down from doing the job that people are – ironically – calling me about. The inevitable result is a screen clogged with voicemails and missed call notifications or text messages that say “call me back asap”. To say it deflates me would be an understatement.
Then there are those people. “Those” are the people who keep persistently calling until you answer and when you DO answer, it’s usually something non-important that could have been relayed via a text message or voicemail. I even have some people who keep calling and leave literally a single second between every attempt. Just fuck off already! Don’t get me started on the people who know that you are most likely to be on the road but then whinge about you not answering the phone later on.
And yes, I am fully aware of the irony of complaining about staying connected or social media addiction on a blog which is a form of social media in itself. By my own admission, I am often an introverted sort of guy so I have to hold my hands up and say that there may also be a streak of bias running through this post but even so, I find it quite worrying and – in the case of people’s anguish at last week’s data outage – ridiculous how mobile phones and 24/7 internet access have become so integral to so many people’s lives. Just put it down and disconnect every once in while – it really won’t hurt.