Saturday 24 November 2012

Forms, 'phones and frustrations

"Nooo, I DO NOT have a mobile number..."
I think I've made it clear on this blog before, but I am one of the few people remaining in this world who does without (and perfectly well without, I might add!) a mobile telephone and who has absolutely no intention of getting one.  (I warned you all some time ago, when I first mentioned the fact, that it might one day lead to a bit of a rant and today may well be that day!).  I don't think it is possible for me to succinctly explain how much I hate them - they way they rob people of manners and considerateness, replace common sense and restraint with imprudence and immoderation, and encourage banality over self-reliance and initiative - and just how much I consider their "essentialness" to be one of the biggest myths ever perpetrated on the modern world.

Before this turns into too much of an essay I should explain the series of events that has led to this post.  It all began the other week when I attempted to fill out an online form for something or other (I think it was a job application).  For the first few fields all was going well until I got to the box marked "Telephone (Mobile)".  Now up 'til this point I had always been able to bypass the request for a mobile number and simply move on.  Except this time a whole load of red warning signs and highlighted instructions appeared upon my pressing "Submit".   For perhaps only the second time in my experience, a mobile telephone number was a "required field"(!).

Source: via Bea on Pinterest
Not being the owner of such a device I had to make up some vaguely mobile-like number (lots of 0s and 7s are my favoured choice) before I could continue, but it confirmed to my mind an ever-more prevailing attitude that I (and others) are encountering.  My suspicions were first aroused when I perceived that, when providing my details at the request of some official lackey or other, the question "Do you have a mobile number?" had begun to subtly change.  First it lost its genuinely querying inflexion and became almost rhetorical (with the level of surprise registered when I explained that I do not own such an infernal appliance inversely proportionate to the perfunctoriness of the question).  Now the transformation is all but complete as the question has tended to become "What is your mobile number?" as if it is a foregone conclusion that I must possess - and make a note of this term, taken from The Chap magazine, for I have yet to find a better description - a chirruping horn of damnation. 

"He doesn't have a mobile number?!"
Then, as proof that I am not alone in this, Tupney encountered the selfsame problem last week in relation to her e-mail account.  I commiserated with her in the comments section using a phrase I've coined to describe this increasingly common attitude, which seemed to strike a chord with some of the other commenters and so convinced me that maybe there was blog material in it.  That phrase is - the presumption of technology.

I suppose when there are 62½ million of the things in the country, with 85% of the population in thrall to them and the "average person" owning two of the confounded machines the odds are stacked heavily against the likes of Tups and me, leading to the aforementioned conclusion on the part of most people/forms.  Still, it is dashed frustrating for those of us who get by perfectly well without to encounter this presumptive attitude.

"People walking around with 'phones stuck to their heads..."
Yet there is still 15% of the population without a mobile telephone, so is it not jumping the gun a little to start making it a compulsory field or otherwise insisting on the provision of a number?  The 'papers are full of stories about rural broadband (or lack thereof) & mobile provider coverage and the recent record low turnout for the England & Wales Police and Crime Commissioners election has been blamed in part on a lack of information - information that was almost exclusively available online but to which not everyone had access.  We may be seeing the creeping advancement and acceptance of technology into our lives but it is by no means universal and perhaps there should be a greater realisation that folk who haven't bought into this "technology for the sake of it" malarkey (or aren't in the position to benefit from it) still exist.

How long before it becomes impossible for those of us sans mobile 'phone to get by on a day-to-day basis?  Already we are seeing the advent of "pay by mobile" in certain high street shops and car parks.  Will mandatory mobile numbers beget mandatory mobile 'phones, perhaps?  In a related aspect, many adverts and competitions seen on television are increasingly becoming accessible only for those with a Farcebook account.  Again, I do not have one.  I almost feel marginalised!


I expect I'm preaching to the converted here and I'm sure many readers who do have mobile telephones use them sensibly and recognise them for the occasionally-useful tools they can be.  Nor am I suggesting we all go back to tin cans and string; I've mentioned in the past how I like to see (and use!) modern technology fused with vintage æsthetics but I'd also like to see it married to certain vintage values and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  Part of that should be the acceptance - the understanding - that mobile telephones are not the be-all and end-all of things and are (and should remain) optional.

Until then, my stock response of "I don't own a mobile telephone" is becoming ever more long-suffering and the numberpad on my keyboard more frequently employed.


  1. I do own a mobile and I was the first person in my class to get one - not because I was rich or fancy, but my nana insisted as I was living alone at 15yo (without a home phone as I was too young to qualify) and putting myself through trade school at night (after regular school) in a "bad area". Since then I have always had one and while I absolutely love my iphone it's more for the music, ebooks and portable internet than the phone side.

    BUT it seems I can't sit down to dinner with a friend without them checking their phone 50 times, answering it while I am in the middle of a conversation, "forgetting" to turn it off in the theatre, talking super loudly on public all drives me insane.

    I also don't think they are nearly as vital as people seem to think they are.

  2. I should also note my daughters (aged 12, 11 and 8yo twins) don't have a mobile phone and they are now a rarity. If my eldest two go out alone (to the shops 100m from our house) they take my phone. That is the only time they ever need one. My 12yo neice has the latest technology mobile phone that set her parents back almost 1k. She uses it to bully as many other kids as possible. Then we are asked why we are keeping our kids in the "stone age" by not giving them a phone (though they do have access to the internet - supervised).

  3. Excellent post! Your idea of "the presumption of technology" really struck a chord. I do have a mobile phone, but strictly for necessary communications. I refuse to fork over money for a data plan, check my email, or be one of those people at a dinner table fiddling with their phone and texting (apparently more important) people elsewhere. Aside from being less rude, this also gives the mind the freedom to truly wander when one is out and about.

  4. My mobile lives in the bottom of my bag and hardly ever sees the light of day, I'm dreading going into the shop to re-new my contract as the sales staff will be in throws of horror that I don't want internet access, why would I? I have a perfectly good computer at home, and who wants to watch TV on a 2" screen anyway? I don't have twitter or facebook and still manage to keep in touch with my friends. Great post!! X

  5. I use mine for the internet. I don't give out my number if I can help it, and I don't answer it if the number calling isn't one of the very few I've put into my phone. I value my peace and quiet, I don't want to be accessible to the world (especially the cold-calling part of it) 24 hours a day.

  6. Great read!
    I’m going to have to give in to my email (no I’m not getting a mobile!), dad said I could use his number!
    I use to have a mobile whilst at school and college, but soon drifted away from it- so much so that the whatsit provider gave my number to someone else- bloomin’ cheek! Not that I give a monkeys now ;)
    Give me a bundle of stamps and a writing pad any day. If anyone wants to speak to me, then they can do so through the Royal Mail!
    Anyway, if I ever need a mobile (?) then I want the little number the lady in the picture is wearing- snazzy eh!
    Tups x

    1. You should see most teenagers handwriting now, and forget being able to write a letter. X

  7. I am the only one of my friends without a cell phone. Actually, people get really confused when they ask for my cell number and I say I don't have one. They honestly don't seem to comprehend that someone might not have a cell phone. I am planning on remaining cellphone-less for as long as possible. I firmly believe it is not "essential" and for me would only be a waste of money. I have also heard a lot about the signals from cellphone towers causing bees to get lost (something about the cell-signals messing up their natural bee-signals). Bee populations have been having such a hard time lately and I would hate to be part of the problem.

  8. Thanks for all the [vindicating] comments, everyone!

    Miss Fairchild - you touch upon another important point in your second post that I didn't fully cover myself, that people without mobiles are sometimes not only marginalised but actually stigmatised, as though having a mobile is some sort of "right" and that anyone who doesn't own one is somehow less of a person. Frankly anybody who's that far gone on the things just has my pity.

    IH/Mim, hear hear, and it's not just the mind that's free to wander but the spirit too. Being out of contact with the [wider] world when out and about is truly relaxing and becoming something of a lost (and, worryingly, stressful for heavy - i.e. most - users) experience.

    Tups - hooray!, there's another good trick, borrow someone else's 'phone for nuisances like that! You're always welcome to write, y'know; just the other day someone complimented me on my handwriting - which I ascribe in part to not having any telephonular distractions. If I'm ever forced into having a mobile I would insist on one of these.

    Kate - another good point! We worry about the effect microwave radiation may be having on our brains (another reason I don't like mobiles) but don't stop to think what effect it may be having on wildlife too.

  9. I have recently had to give in due to health problems which can cause very swift levels of pain and immobility, so for safety's sake out and about etc. But it's caused much bad language trying to work it out!
    But I hate the bad manners of inappropriate use by so many, in shops, on transport, at meals, theatre, I could go on Ad infinitum Ad nauseam. Someone I used to be friendly with was constantly interrupted by her beastly husband like this. He was like a spoiled child, constant invasive phones calls and texts, loathsome man!


Don't just sit there, type something! I enjoy reading all friendly and positive comments.


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