Mobile phones should not be used at the expense of manners - Neil McNicholas

Is the obsession with mobile phones bad for society?
Is the obsession with mobile phones bad for society?

WE are not born with a mobile phone as an appendage (though evolution might eventually take care of that apparent omission) and so the view from the top of my self-righteous mobile phoneless ivory tower is of a world gone mad in its quest to be perpetually, electronically and unnaturally in touch with the universe.

Normally these columns have to come in at around 800 words, but I could actually make this one just 400 and the remainder would be made up of the echo of the first 400 bouncing off the brick wall to which I might as well be talking and against which I am banging my head senselessly when it comes to the subject of mobile phone usage. However…

Should mobile phones be banned from the House of Commons? Neil McNicholas thinks so.

Should mobile phones be banned from the House of Commons? Neil McNicholas thinks so.

The human skeleton was designed in such a way that we counterbalance our steps as we walk by swinging our hands by our sides. This design is going to have to undergo a degree of change because people are now walking round with no counterbalance as one hand is either permanently clasped to their ear or is held out in front of them, dandy style, holding their phones.

The reason for this is that everyone has suddenly become incapable of walking along without talking on their mobile. They will even ignore the people they are with in order to talk to people whom they are not with. Once upon a time men in white coats would take you away for talking to yourself – now it is the done thing regardless of how rude or antisocial it may be.

The need to answer a ringing phone has become an absolute obsession, indeed an addiction, with the result that despite increased penalties for using a mobile phone while driving, the number of drivers being caught doing so is also on the increase – as is, needless to say, the number of accidents caused by people using their phones while driving and, sadly, the number of lives lost in such accidents. People can’t even walk safely while phoning, let alone drive safely.

The same addiction is presumably the reason why you see people out for a meal together not talking to the friends they are with, but texting other people on their phones. It is rude and bad- mannered. Restaurants and the like should impose a blanket ban on the use of mobiles on their premises. But then if parents allow their children to constantly consult their phones when at table at home, little wonder they grow up (and I use that phrase advisedly) to think it’s acceptable when they are eating out also – and presumably aided by the fact that their parents do the same.

And the fact of this increasing addiction is borne out by the experience of seeing two young people sitting together texting (in itself bad enough) only to realise that they were texting each other! Don’t ask why – it’s just one of mysteries of life. And, of course, it has become socially acceptable to text someone instead of actually talking to them, and then we wonder why studies show a fall in conversational standards, handwriting standards and spelling standards. All down to texting.

And so to a pet annoyance of mine: MPs texting on their phones in the House – and not only while other members are speaking, but, as we have seen recently, doing so while some of the most momentous Brexit-related business of our times was being conducted. They can’t possibly be listening as fully and attentively as they should, and as we expect them to, when they are otherwise occupied and distracted on their phones. It too is rude and bad-mannered. No mobile phones should be permitted in either House.

Even in church – at funerals, weddings and baptisms – it has become necessary to ask people to switch off their mobile phones. It doesn’t occur to many that they should have done that when they walked in the door. I’ve seen people actually leave church, leave a service, to answer their phone (which shouldn’t have been switched on anyway). We should have a rule that any mobile that rings in church most be dropped in the font. That should teach them.

Like it or not, mobile phones have carved out a place for themselves in society, but that place should be in a person’s pocket or handbag and not held in the hand or placed on the table as if to say “I’m talking to you and listening to you unless someone more interesting requires my attention”. My friend’s answer whenever I get on this particular soapbox is that this is how society is now. Yes it is, but is it such a good thing if it’s at the cost of good manners – and the observance of social niceties? Where’s that brick wall?