(Un)Happy and Connected?

My mother and technology have always been two worlds apart, the simple tuning of radio stations was a mystery for her, just to give you an idea. So, when long long time ago she decided to buy me a mobile for Christmas, her choice could not but be based only on glamour and price, after all she would have done everything to make her beloved, spoiled, only daughter happy. It was my very first mobile and I can still remember how she was eagerly awaiting to read the surprise and joy in my eyes and how she hurried me to open my gift, after all, such new device was everybody’s wish at that time and so she assumed it was even mine. Once unwrapped my present, I remained a few seconds in silence watching the thing and said : “Give it back , I don’t want it”. It was not her choice of mobile that I disliked – a red, super expensive, flashy “Ferrari ” ( famous mobile brand isn’t it?), but that was the instinctive reaction to a thought that took possession of my mind at once : with that gizmo I could have been controlled. Even if she tried to hide it, I saw tears in her eyes. Since then and after many mobiles that thought has never abandoned me, it has been only put aside, but every now and then it comes back to claim its rights and that’s why my relationship with the connected world has always been something between love and hatred.

I cannot deny that more than once having a mobile has been more than useful , as
when I broke the axle and the axle shaft of my car while I was on my way to work
or, of course, that time I was left imprisoned in a lift and….. well, actually,
nothing more that vital I can remember. Two episodes in about 25 years! Of course, I love
chatting, texting, googling. ……but on the other hand I believe the control you
have on people being thus connected anyhow, anywhere, has increased rather than
reduced our fears and made our psychological space a bit too crowded and
suffocating. One example ? My mother. Again. I am sure whoever has an elderly parent knows well what I am about to say.  When I call her on the phone at home she rarely answers, of course, I am not worried as she might be doing something and I try and look for her on her mobile number: silence. After many unsuccessful attempts to reach her, my
mind begins to be haunted by the shadows of any possible disgrace, hence, I feel having no other choice than going and seek for her at home. And there she is, peacefully watching tv.  When I enquire about her mobile, she always answers candidly: “Oh, it’s off, my dear”. It’s her revenge for that Ferrari, I’m sure.

Whenever we want to control somebody it is often for a good reason, but hardly ever it is the consequence of a positive thought. We want to put at rest our fears, but if we take the phone any time doubts and apprehension cross our brain, we just end up reducing the freedom of others, even the freedom of making mistakes. Think about how the parent-child relationship has changed in this last decade. I see children continuously connected to their parents for any reason, much more that I used to be at their age, it is a continuous presence that can make them eventually  grow less responsible. I can witness this at school. If they forget their book, dictionary, money, snack or if they feel like having a problem with a teacher, no problem, let’s call mummy or daddy, and they’ll promptly come at any time of the day to help and solve their problems. However, they never forget their mobiles, strange indeed.

I can still remember my years abroad. I usually heard from my parents twice a month! Of course, it was B.E.M., namely, Before Mobile Era and as calls were expensive, I knew I had to manage things myself and that it was no use calling them to tell my problems, if I had any, the only result would have been making them more worried. I’m sure the flavor of those happy years wouldn’t have been the same, had my mother phoned me three times a day.

The princes, princesses and their Queen, of course.

Of course, you may guess, what I might think of Whatsapp with its blue check marks or its noisy, chatty, crowded groups: I hate them. However, I cannot ignore how it has recently become quite common at school  to form Whatsapp groups to share information. There are three kinds of them, which I will list according to the degree of danger of breaking into your privacy: level 1 – teachers (dangerous); level 2 – teachers and students (very dangerous); level -3 teachers, students and parents (madness). So far, I have unsuccessfully joined some level 1 groups.  Last June I had my chance to experience level 2. The occasion was a trip to Sicily with one of my classes. I thought about creating a group for a while, but no way, I could not, I only resolved about giving my precious telephone number to two selected students, with the solemn promise of burning or swallowing it at the end the trip. I have to say that they have been fantastic and behaved like princes and princesses, I am not joking, but even aristocracy sometimes has its faults. One day inTaormina, we were on our way to the theatre, when my two colleagues and I had to stop to help one of our boys who thought he had lost his wallet. By the time we called the coach company and check whether the wallet had been left on the coach, they had all disappeared, vanished. We hoped they had seen the huge sign to Taormina theatre and turned left, but they had not, they had gaily followed the flow and turned right. Once arrived at the solitary gates of the theatre my colleagues started to text them on Whatsapp, of course, they could easily reach all their students and give directions, but  I could not. I was mortified. I was just about to call my two chosen ones, when I saw the name of one of them on my display. He asked me where I was where I was  and assured they would have joined me soon. When they all arrived, my collegues soundly reproached them, but I did not. I could not.I just smiled.


18 thoughts on “(Un)Happy and Connected?

  1. For various reasons I resolved to be happy and unconnected on a week’s holiday abroad. My resolve broke two or three times, but mostly I gave in to being in the moment in the place we’d chosen to relax in. There’s something about crossing borders or seas that psychologically permits me to be cut off from ties and responsibilities. After all, what can you physically do if you’re hundreds of miles away from home?

    We can never me totally unconnected in the modern world, of course, but sometimes it’s good to give yourself permission — by finding a good excuse!

    • One of my greatest pleasures is going for long walks with my husband by the sea in the week-ends. Of course,I never take my nobile with me. Nevertheless,I have to confess that another great pleasure is checking mails and calls when I come back. 😉

  2. What you said about the new devices making you less responsible is very interesting: I have never seen it that way, so thank you for opening my eyes. For what is worth, I’m Sorry about that misunderstanding in Taormina.😅😅

  3. The main reason why I have a cellphone is for emergencies. It also has come in real handy with the huge task of blogging, so yes I use it for WordPress. I also use it as a camera. I rarely talk and I rarely text. I also thought by buying a smart phone, a decision that took me a long time, that I could stay in better touch with family. That bombed. So it has mainly functioned for a camera, WP, emails, and emergencies (just in case). I still use it too much IMO and feel tied to it sometimes. I understand totally about the privacy issue. Oh I don’t use the GPS or Maps. I use my EYES and research how to get someplace and write down directions. I detest how technology is luring all of us to let it do stuff for us. Not me or at least I do try. 😉

  4. Last fall we went kayaking in Mexico for a week. No cell service and no Wifi. I have to say it was blissful. I do like being connected very much but having a break is a healthy thing. At least for me. 🙂

  5. Loved this post, because it captures many of my concerns, particularly responsibility. I way to my husband, when he gets cross because I didn’t have my iPhone one, that we used to manage without them perfectly fine. And, I’m not a teacher but I did parent, and that issue of parents being on call to solve things is a worry. I too go for walks, on my own or with my husband, without using my phone, I don’t listen to podcasts or music. I listen to what’s going on around me, what’s in my head or what my companion is saying.

    I am concerned though about the issue of older women (usually) acquiring phones for emergency purposes. Many of them, in my experience, don’t use them enough to know how to use it in an emergency and they often don’t ensure it’s charged and ready. I think for older women driving alone, or out alone in remote places, they can be very valuable but you have to know how to use them, have emergency numbers (family, friends, services) in their contact list and perhaps favourites for quick dialing.

    But as for for privacy, I’ve pretty well given up on Thu at. I’m sensible about my details, passwords etc, but I don’t worry about location services etc.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed this post immensely.

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