Saturday September 30, 2023

Cellphone mania

August 01, 2020

The cellphone has become part of everyone’s life. The little gadget appears so inextricably glued to everyone’s ear that it appears to form an important limb of the body. Use of the cellphone has become an addiction. Experts call it 'nomophobia', which is an abbreviation of ‘no-mobile-phone-phobia’. If you can’t resist checking your smartphone too often for emails, text messages and missed calls, you’re most likely 'nomophobic'.

People seem to use their cellphones during all their waking hours. They’re addicted to their gadgets so much that they would rather use them during sleep if they could. Most annoying however is to trail behind someone driving casually in the fast lane and chatting on their cellphone. Other motorists are forced to overtake from the wrong side. Even traffic cops don’t check such violators of traffic rules because they are themselves too busy in their cells.

But most suspenseful to watch are the motorcyclists, with pillion riders, talking on the cellphones squeezed between their shoulders and ears and zigzagging through heavy traffic. The antic is no less than a circus stunt. The tragic part is when they land in hospitals. Reported head injuries in the Lahore General Hospital, which treats such injuries, runs into hundreds every day. While the motorcyclists are observed to be completely ignorant of traffic rules, the car drivers – including the apparently suave and educated ones – are no less in ignoring road discipline. Roads are considered an arena free for all where no rules apply.

The incessant use of cellphones and their demand has caused its market to virtually explode. Some years ago, the shops on ground and first floors in Siddique Centre in Lahore used to be occupied by computer dealers. Now these floors have been replaced by cellphone sellers, with computers pushed to the upper floors.

In many countries, people use only one cell number but in our dear land every cell phone must have dual SIMs – two cell numbers. My good friend Iftikhar Kayani carries two cellphones with dual sims each. Whenever we meet to break bread together, he either receives calls or makes calls. I chide him for acting as a one-man mobile exchange. He typically replies that in politics one has to remain vigilant about the political developments and cell phones help him stay abreast with the latest. Years ago, he became Nazim of his village union council for a term. Streaks of politics run in his system ever since. His close friends have one of his cell contacts, not so close friends another, political followers and acquaintances use his third number, and fourth he keeps for ‘just in case’. He enjoys juggling them.

Many are so attached to their cellphones that they experience withdrawal symptoms when they forget their phones at home, in the office or lose them. Some even experience insomnia, difficulty in concentrating on any subject, irritation and anger. Too much dependence on cell phones, besides causing psychological problems, also impacts one’s health for constantly remaining in the field of electromagnetic radiation. Some psychologists say that mobile usage while driving is six times more dangerous than driving high by other means. But that’s a different story.

On the other hand, frequent use of cellphones has changed the behaviour pattern of the individuals. People have turned reclusive. Instead of interacting socially, they prefer to remain busy with their phones. Cellphone manufacturers play a major role in promoting the use of their products by attracting users with newer models, improved speed and cameras, and other novel applications in them. Hand-held cameras of yesteryears, however sophisticated, have lost their appeal.

Visit a shopping centre, a park or walk on a jogging track, you find both men and women busy on their cellphones.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.