Thursday 16 May 2024

Hung up


When I started this blog, I didn’t have an iPhone. It was iPod that brought me into Apple, followed by a MacBook and only then, the capitulation

I started using social media on a laptop, and as far as I'm concerned,  Facebook can stay there. I’ve never had the app on my phone, and it’s been a good decision. Ditto never joining Twitter. Although I’ll admit to having the Instagram app in my pocket. 

Have I missed out? Possibly. My biggest question is whether, had I leapt onto TikTok in the early days, might I have made something more of my children’s books? But somehow, I doubt it. I have a secretive nature (the clue's in the name) and I am now rather thankful that if I’m rising anywhere, it’s into obscurity.

The topic of mobile phones, social media and the potential damage they’re doing to people’s mental well-being, particularly the young, is hard to avoid these days. The sense of nostalgia for a world they never knew is strong amongst young people, as expressed in this article by Freya India. (Although I remember being obsessed with the 1950s and before in my teens, so maybe it’s part of growing up.)

There’s an interesting study out this week from More in Common  . The topline conclusion is that the Brits are more hung-up on their smartphones and more in favour of restrictions than people in France, Germany or the US. Here are just a couple of charts:

44% of Brits go for an hour or less without looking at their phone, compared to only 25% of Germans. That’s a major difference and one I can well imagine from my UK trips. 

Lots of questions, obviously.

Is it push or pull? It’s certainly more difficult to get by in the UK without a smartphone than in Germany, even with something as simple as paying for car parking. 

What are people checking their phone for? The weather? Messages from colleagues? News? Football scores? Or how many likes they’ve clocked up in the last 10 minutes?

Regulation and implementing restrictions is a huge area, and one where all parties - with conflicting interests - have to find common ground and work together. Government, social media platforms, telecoms companies, academics and health professionals ...

One thing the More in Common report does point out, which makes a lot of sense, is that all technology is not equal. This isn’t about technophobia, and of course smartphones have many beneficial functions. 

Surely it’s not too much of a challenge to make a helpful, useful phone for young people? With the functional stuff but less of the potentially dysfunctional? 

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