James Marston: A life less complicated

Are we better off without mobile phones?

Are we better off without mobile phones? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

WOULD life be easier without mobile phones, emails, and all this modern communication?

Is it really that great constantly being contactable, and constantly being contacted? I am not really convinced by all this technology. I’m sure life was less stressful before mobile phones.

I get emails coming through on my mobile phone and sometimes they come through in the middle of the night - usually soon after I have bought something online.

Of course, unhappy at the prospect of being woken up, it means I have to put my phone on silent at night so I am undisturbed.

Last weekend while staying in the west of the county, my father called me at about midnight to let me know about a fire that was raging nearby and that I could see out of my window and would I like to watch.

Of course I woke up to find three missed calls and an email offering me money off something I didn’t want. By the time I looked out of the window the fire which would have been interesting to see was a smouldering ruin. I missed all the excitement despite being contactable at all times.

I have also missed all sorts of things because I am not to be found on Facebook – a website that seems to me to be far more intrusive than any newspaper - where people put up for public discussion and entertainment their most private of moments.

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Last weekend I saw a friend in London who told me all sorts of juicy gossip about mutual friends she had gleaned simply from looking at the web.

Apparently, though you don’t know them but I’ll talk about them anyway, one couple who we knew in our student days have split up and announced their whole change in martial status through Facebook leaving everyone very unsure what to do Christmas-card wise.

I know other people who have posted pictures of mother and baby doing well in hospital soon after the moment of the birth of their child.

In some cases the mother is still sweating.

Perhaps I am old-fashioned but this seems to be to be utterly bizarre as well as making uncomfortable viewing.

Indeed this behaviour is perhaps even more strange in a world when parents are so over-protective of their children they don’t let them out of their sight until their early 20s.

And do we really communicate any better?

People are still forgotten about.

As a newspaper reporter I’ve been to several coroners’ inquests in which the dead have not been discovered until six weeks after the event, and then only because the rent wasn’t paid or, and forgive me for saying so, the flies became a problem.

Mistakes are still made, people are incompetent, jobs are not done properly and time and time again the excuse a “breakdown in communication” is given.

People regularly blame “the system” for emails and texts not coming through. The post is routinely blamed for a letter not being received. But no one really believes these excuses do they?

Inexplicably communication breaks down when we have every available tool to stay in touch.

Which makes me wonder if these tools are little more than an illusion.

It is true that you can get your news on the move, chat to friends, get addicted to gambling, buy things and disturb the peace of everyone around you while you shout into a little telephone.

But do we really know what’s going on? or where our children are? Are we really buying things you need and making conversations that are necessary? In an age when we don’t even know what we are eating I wonder.

Perhaps sociologists and historians of tomorrow will debate whether the breakdown in family life, our ever increasing materialism, our growing addiction and mental health problems, our unruly children and teenagers, our lack of manners and respect for our fellow man had something to do with the age of mass communication.