On Linkedin and Facebook people believe that mobile phones are making people less sociable then they would be if phones were not around. They believe that the world in which we lived before mobile phones was an open and sociable place where everyone communicated with everyone. These people are forgetting the social context that brought them Home Alone, Problem Child and other films.
Society and social interactions have always been about finding the people whom you appreciate and those whom you prefer to keep away from. In the age before mobile phones I remember watching films and cartoons where certain characters were ostracised for being different. These people were seen as isolated or loners. Society does not like these people. We see it conversation and we see it in films.
If a group of people in the physical world does not want to spend time with you, does not want to listen to you because your passions are incompatible with theirs, because your tone of voice is not right then that is their right. These people though, are not satisfied with excluding you from their conversations, are not satisfied with having their monologues and showing no interest in you. They will go a step further. They will prevent you from entertaining yourself.
One of the most common forms of entertainment when people are not fully engaged with groups is the mobile phone. Mobile phone use is stigmatised by a lot of people. Just a few weeks ago I took a chance and met with a new group. As I am an ingress player and as I had nothing positive to add to the conversation I took the opportunity to farm from two portals that were in range. As I live in the countryside Ingress “farming” is a treat and I took advantage of the opportunity.
I was listening to the conversations taking place on both sides of me. On one side it was the stereotypical “What do you do?” International community conversation and on the other they were discussing a few topics. One of these topics was music festivals. I have had a lot of fun at music festivals but I also have some views that I share with facebook friends rather than the wider world as it would see me ostracised.
As I drove home from the meeting above I got a text message and felt that it would be bad. I read it when I got home and left the group. I won’t be told how to behave by strangers. I won’t be judged in a town by a group of people who hike and do via ferrata. If you participate in both of these sports there is a good chance that you will appreciate my company. When I am in the mountains one of the cameras I carry around is out but my mobile phone is in a pocket until I get to the end of the activity or the car.
I am a member of the Geneva Ingress Resistance as well as the Lausanne Ingress resistance. As a result of this I have access via Google Hangouts to at least 120 people in the Lac Léman (lake Geneva) region. These people are unique. What makes them stand out is that they’re always looking at their mobile phones and when you see the entire group is silent it’s because they’re “glyphing”. I like to spend time with these groups because we eat crisps, drink wine, eat ice creams, hike and do other activities. These people meet because of the game but you see that there are deep friendships that have benefited from mobile phone use.
I love the paradox. The paradox is as follows. Every user is in the Google Plus community, every user converses with other players in Google Hangouts and every player meets other players in the real world. The mobile phone is a link between those who are not present and those who are present. In effect whether you converse with these people from a computer, by mobile phone or in person changes little.
Last week at the end of one operation to field over Yverdon with blue fields and another operation to field another city a phone call was made via google hangouts and we all answered and put the phones to our heads for a conference call. Instead of the mobile phone isolating people it is doing the opposite. It is uniting people.
Look at the conventional social interaction. When two normal people call each other the people you’re with are isolated for a period of time. It’s the same when people in face to face conversations start talking about mutual friends, certain types of activities and more. Sometimes the conversation that two conventional people are having is more likely to isolate the people you’re in the same physical location with. More often than not small talk is frustrating because A) you don’t know whom they’re talking about and B) you don’t know the context. As a result small talk is less polite than mobile phone use.
I love the mountains and I enjoy via ferrata and hiking when it’s with the right people. I also enjoy spending time with ingress players. With these three groups of people I feel that I can be myself. I spend no time acting and performing. They appreciate the real me. When I go to towns and listen to normal people small talk I get bored and I feel isolated. It has nothing to do with the mobile phone and everything to do with the difference in interests and passions.
If we don’t have the same interests and passions then don’t blame mobile phones for our lack of conversation. Either we find something we are both passionate about or we co-exist in the same space without talking much… Sometimes the inability for people to accept silence when they are not alone encourages others to be alone.