How many of us will ever be able to recall a time without mobile phones? They’ve become such a scarily integrated part of our lives that I think we’d collectively struggle to go about our daily business without one. My first mobile phone was about the size of a house brick and by a brand I don’t even think still exists; it weighed about as much as a small child and could do little other than make and receive calls to the few people that also had a mobile phone (namely my mum.) When I discovered it could actually send text messages (even though they were only twenty characters long and took about ten minutes to write,) it was a revolution! Within a few years mobiles had evolved, the prices had reduced and Nokia realised there was potential to turn this new gadget into a fashion accessory: I think I spent more money on new fascias than I did outfits back then. Not only could we spend hours playing Snake, but we wasted away our evenings texting our mates about all the things we could’ve probably just waited to chat about the next morning. That was, until we ran out of credit and had to buy a phone card on the way into school.
Back then a mobile phone was seen as a luxury, not a necessity, and you could easily leave it in your bag for the entirety of a day without even glancing at it. Now, it’s slightly different; our phones have become the modern Filofax, hosting everything about our lives we need to manage them effectively (calendars, contact details, emails, banking) alongside every app imaginable to keep us occupied (games, mindfulness, shopping, podcasts.) Chuck in a few social networks into the mix and it’s no wonder we’ll be the first generation to get turkey neck and arthritis in our fingers from overuse of an iPhone. Since they were launched back in the 1980’s, there’s been a total revolution in the way we use our devices. No longer are they a way of maintaining communication, but a way of helping to run our lives; in a modern world smartphones allow us to answer an email on the go or get a head-start on that presentation, as much as they allow us to share what we’re having for dinner. Personally speaking, my phone is my life; as a self-employed businesswoman it allows me to work wherever and whenever I need to, while maintaining essential social connections that (quite simply) stop me from cracking up. So why are we so unfairly judged by others for using one?
Let me tell you a story… A couple of months ago my Nan was about to undergo a much needed hip replacement. My mum lives a few hours away and my aunt is a carer who works long shifts, so it fell to me to ensure she attended her pre-op appointments and got to hospital when she needed to be there. While she was having her bloods taken I was in the waiting room catching up on emails and monitoring my social media accounts, when two other visitors started a rather rude conversation in front of (and obviously directed at) me about the fact that ‘the younger generation’ didn’t know how to talk to people because they were so engrossed in their phones. What I wanted to say, but refrained from doing so, was this: “I’m self employed and I’m currently managing my business from this device. An iPhone is not the devil; it allows me to accompany my grandmother during an anxious time, without having to jeopordise my income. It allows me to be with her over the next week so she’s never alone, continuing to maintain relationships that are essential to my career, but also ensures I can update loved ones as to her condition and progress. Stop judging what you don’t understand, because I don’t judge you for your inability to be open-minded.”
Over the last week or two I’ve seen increasing amounts of conversation from my peers around the judgement they’ve received for being on their phones in public. Danielle Peazer recently tweeted: “Sat waiting for a train and a man literally just interrupted my day to ask ‘why would you do without your phone’ because I was using it.” She went on to say: “Well sir I happen to run 90% of my business from my phone. I may not be wearing a suit or sat at a desk, but I’m working fucking hard.” Kellie from Big Fashionista continued: “I get this on the school run. The LOLLIPOP MAN, was going, You are always on your phone. I replied, I’ve been up since 6am working on this phone and it means I CAN walk my child to school, I’m lucky.” Our smartphones are devices that, yes, can be irritating when your dinner date refuses to stop checking Facebook or snapchatting their coffee, but they are also essential part of a whole generation’s working life.
My phone is my business; if I’m on it I’m either replying to emails, updating my social media accounts, checking my calendar or actually attempting to manage a conversation with loved ones. I’m neither playing Candy Crush, stalking people on Facebook or reading The Lad Bible. (Much anyway.) My income relies on the fact I can work whenever and wherever I need to, and also includes sharing snippets of my life to those of you that are interested; it would be impossible to do that without my phone. So many media stories focus on the damaging effects of smartphone useage (sleep deprivation, back and neck pain, anxiety, hand cramp, concentration issues,) but none of them focus upon the freedom and flexibility they have brought those of us that need to work from them. When sitting on the train or waiting in the Starbucks queue I do feel guilty for being on my phone and am very aware of those eyes looking at me, more so from much older generations than my peers, which makes me anxious about doing so in public. That’s not ok.
Smartphones allow working mothers to put their children to bed before getting back to emails; they allow digital influencers to make a living from creating content and doing what they love; they allow us the freedom to take a few days out of the office without losing track of a big project; they allow us to manage our lives effectively and efficiently while experiencing new things; they allow us to connect with those that are precious to us in an instant, sharing news or just saying hello when that’s needed most. When has that ever been a bad thing? So, dude on the train, in the hospital or Kellie’s lollipop man: don’t judge what you don’t understand and don’t make us feel bad for simply trying to make a living. We’re all just grafting, but in different ways.