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Would the world be better without mobile phones?

There are always benefits and downsides to new technology. I was musing about this as I sat at a restaurant the other night. The air was warm, the food delicious and yet we all had our mobile phones out, snapping away, sending photos and cursing that some of our skills were a little sub-par. 

There were lots of ‘how do you do this?’ questions flung around the table. Perhaps it was also our age showing – a group of baby boomers who were clearly not digital natives despite professional lives and careers.

I wondered as we engaged in all this activity if we were somehow missing out on the moment. Has technology ruined the intimate vibe of a dinner out on a moonlit evening? 

I am in two minds about it and not sure where the balance lies.

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Educators and family members have long lamented the intrusion of technology, particularly phones, to the quality of discussion and attention span. But what about the good bits that we sometimes take for granted?

Years ago, as I sat in a campervan in the Place de la Concorde slap bang in the centre of Paris, a pilot friend texted us to turn on our television. His message was a bit unintelligible but we did what he requested. There, in front of our eyes was the second plane hurtling into the World Trade Centre.

We sat stunned and transfixed as the CNN reporter conveyed his horror. Days later, we flew home out of Frankfurt with one of my sons texting a ‘please travel safely’ message. I still remember the joy of hearing from him and his concerned wishes. Without mobile phones, that would never have happened.

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Without mobile phone coverage, life was about making pre-arranged plans, often quite some time ahead. I remember organising to meet friends in Trafalgar Square after months of backpacking around Europe. It was pre-mobile phones time. Really it was pre-phones in many ways as it was hellishly expensive to ring home when you were overseas. Someone had to be dying to justify the cost.

We waited for our friends in Trafalgar Square for six long hours. Little did we know they had been delayed on their tour and couldn’t get in touch. The disappointment was great. Now if we’d all had phones, that drama and disappointment wouldn’t have happened.

How did we get around in the pre-mobile phone era and actually plan a life? I really have to rack my brain to remember. I know we rang each other on a landline and sometimes sent letters, with, of course, invitations to functions (how quaint you may now say). But maybe we spent a lot of time waiting for people and missing them? Maybe we weren’t as social as we are now, or maybe we were a bit more discerning about where we went and who we met? I’m not sure. We certainly weren’t addicted as we are now.

One thing I can be certain of, is that baby boomers struggle to keep pace with each new bit of technology and our ‘fat’ fingers have trouble with texting quickly. And this baby boomer is sick of her adult children rolling their eyes in derision as I ask yet again another question about my phone. Leave me be with the derision. I did teach you stuff when you were little; cut me a bit of slack and maybe a bit of patience.

Would you be lost without your mobile phone? Is a mobile an essential item, an intrusion or both? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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