Young people should learn that life is for living, not gawping at phones - Sarah Todd

THIS correspondent has long been a critic of the mobile phone and all the slack-jawed adolescents it has spawned.

Heroes include the likes of the late racehorse trainer Sir Henry Cecil who would have nothing to do with them: “If my owners want to get me they can at quarter to five in the morning or between six and eight in the evening,” he famously told an interviewer.

They had to dial through to the office landline as he refused point-blank to follow racing’s trend of every trainer having a mobile phone permanently attached to their ear.

Interestingly, nobody thought any less of him. Quite the opposite in fact.

Pic: AdobeStock.

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The Daughter was the only child in her first year at secondary school not to have a mobile phone.

At the time she slammed her mother’s decision as cruel, but now she would admit that it helped forge her outgoing personality.

Because she was excluded from the hometime and weekend messaging of others in her class, she had to make the effort to make friends in person.

Fast-forward ten years and last week we were at her graduation. It was a really lovely event; the only irritation being those sat in front holding their mobile phones up above their heads to video their offspring.

Not just the actual moment on the stage and shaking hands, but for what seemed like an eternity before and after. Completely oblivious about those sat behind.

To be truthful, it did detract from the enjoyment of the ceremony. Actually, we are being too polite and British about it. It was annoying enough to make a vicar swear.

As an audience we would have benefitted from a pre-ceremony pep talk from our children’s old primary school headmistress.

She would never let her pupils take cameras on school trips, instead telling them there are moments in life that are to be lived; memories to be made rather than lost behind a lens.

Of course, we took some photographs out in the university grounds afterwards. But the joy of the day was randomly chatting to others at the ceremony; matching parents with the names of children that we had heard of.

It was so enjoyable – perhaps especially so because this is the Covid generation – to mingle.

Mingling. The dictionary states ‘to move among and engage with others at a social function’.

The basic art of striking up a conversation is a skill that can easily be forgotten in our full-throttle world, where people can be more comfortable sticking a camera phone in your face than saying hello.

A few weeks earlier it was our silver wedding anniversary and this nostalgic old thing got the photograph albums out.

It was wonderful to look back at the pictures, The Husband’s dark hair and 32 inch waist, the grandmothers that are no longer with us.

Then came babies dressed up in Father Christmas outfits, first teeth, first shoes, first days at school.

All painstakingly pasted in, with captions written beneath. It’s such a shame that they peter out.

Sporadically, this writer’s phone has been taken in to the chemist’s to get pictures printed off.

But instead of being neatly arranged in an album, the pictures are shoved in shoeboxes. Other photographs have been lost over the years because of broken mobile phones and failing to learn how to properly save digital images.

Not now, because there is too much to do outside while it’s summer, but come autumn and a resolution has been made to spend the evenings (yes, living the high life) sticking photographs into albums.

Not all of them, but the highlights like 18th and 21st birthdays and, of course, last week’s graduation.

There is a balance to strike between capturing the moment and living in it. The latter is, without a doubt, the most important.

The use of mobile phones is a big talking point at cinemas, concerts and theatres. Do people actually replay the footage they have filmed at a live music event for example?

Or does the light of the camera recording and arm in the air achieve nothing other than to spoil the enjoyment of those other surrounding ticket holders?

During a performance of Macbeth, Hollywood actor James McAvoy noticed a member of the audience filming and broke out of character to tell him in no uncertain terms to stop.

Many others have done the same; with singer Alicia Keys and comedian Chris Rock (the one that Will Smith slapped at the Oscars) insisting phones are locked away in specially provided pouches during their shows.

There is something rather vulgar – this is a favourite word at the moment – about people who always have to be updating their social media status with where they are and what they are doing.

How wonderful going to see a show, but do we all need to know about it and see a video for good measure?

It’s like the people on amazing Caribbean holidays; all I can think is hopefully a burglar is reading the same post and will pay them a visit!

Luddites like yours truly shouldn’t be allowed to pour cold water on the joy of people being connected.

The immediacy of Zoom calls, for example, was a lifesaver for many during the pandemic.

But then there is a line to draw. There is a balance to find between the immediacy of technology and the sheer joy of living in the moment.

Mobile phones have already replaced people’s cameras, calendars, map reading skills and alarm clocks.

We owe it to our families to keep mingling and making old-fashioned photograph albums.

- Sarah Todd is a former editor of Yorkshire Life magazine. She is a farmer’s daughter, mother and journalist specialising in country life.