2 January Print
societal use of mobile phone
Mobility has contributed tremendously to the high rate of mobile phone usage in this generation. Mobile phone device has become one of the most common communications tools being used by both young and old. Everyone seems to own a mobile phone now. It may even be “weird” to meet a person who does not own a mobile phone device. In every document now a person has to fill, there is a column instructing one to fill in their mobile phone number.
Personally, it is been over a decade since I began using a mobile phone. During that time, I was in the University studying for my first degree in Africa. It was not only a fantasy to own one piece of mobile phone at the time; the device was very convenient as it kept one in touch with close relatives and friends. Using a mobile phone became more convenient because I was several miles away from home. This meant that with the help of the device, I didn’t have to wait so long before communicating with my parents and friends back home. Owning a mobile phone then was not only a luxury, but a great necessity. In Africa, there were other incidences where people who didn’t own a mobile phone may have to walk to a nearby house or to their friends with mobile phone, while they wait for their relatives elsewhere to call them through it. The device was a great necessity.
But the times are changing. Not long ago, I escorted a relative to a take a plane at schiphol airport in the Netherlands. On our way to Schiphol, we passed through The Hague Holland spoor to pick a speed train to avoid delay as it was a very busy Monday morning. As expected, the train station was heavily crowded with people who were in a hurry to work, school or perhaps travelling. After waiting for some few minutes, the train finally arrived. As we both went on board the train, we were joined with other passengers. While on the train, I realized the train was almost full, but I managed to secure one vacant seat for this relative while I stood close to the stairs at the entrance of train.
When the train took off, there were several people also standing close by because there was no vacant seat to sit on. In spite of the fact that there were so many people on board the train at the section were I stood, I noticed it was still very quiet, you could only hear the sound of the moving train and not the voices of the people within. As the train moved along, I found something rather interesting. Most of those who stood close by me had their mobile phones in their hands as they fidgeted with it. Some were listening to music, others were browsing the internet, text chatting, playing a game, whatsoever. I observed that almost three fourth of those standing close by were doing something with their phones. They gave a 100 percent of their attention to their mobile phone device and ignored the people standing by them. Again, a greater percentage of these people fidgeting with their phones were men, with no rings on their fingers, although some wore marriage rings. I found this attitude strange but perhaps repulsive. I asked myself one simple question, why are these passengers not interested in the people around them? Why are they not observing what is happening around them? Why are these people so busy with their phones? Is the phone more important than the people around them? If a terrorist was on board the train, would they notice as they seem so engrossed with their phones? I wondered. Gone were the days, when people were so much interested in knowing what is happening around them. When people deeply cared to know what others are doing, where they are going, or if they are alright? People cared about one another deeply, irrespective of their class, race or culture.
I signed, “yes, indeed, times are changing”. How is this mobile phone device affecting our social lives? Can this “toy” replace human connections in communications? Do people now value their phone more than the people around them? Now most people do not care what is happening to their fellow human beings. They care less about who sits by them either on tram or in a train. Lets now examine if there is any negative impact of the use of mobile phone.
Negative impact of use of mobile phone
Now, it has been over a decade since I began using mobile phone. Am I still enthused about owning this digital piece of device? Do I still smile when I receive a phone call? What has been the social impact of mobile phone network? Is the mobile phone being used effectively as it should be?
Owning a mobile phone itself is not a bad idea at all. The problem is many people do not make effective use of the mobile phone device as they should, which often affect our social lives negatively. I would commit a fallacy of hasty generation if i quickly conclude that mobile phone device has a negative consequence on the individual using it because situations are different and people are different.
However, the use of mobile phone device has an indirect linkage and can contribute negatively to better social attitudes with reference to attitude or behaviour and communications. Several people are overusing, misusing or even abusing their use of mobile phones. Such persons tend to ignore those around them; they become emotionally attached to their phones. At that point, they can even sleep with the phone. There is this emotional attachment which often becomes visible when the phone gets missing. When a person who owns a mobile phone loses it, it is as if a baby has been lost. The phone becomes the first thing they touch when they wake up, and the last thing they read before going to bed. This leads to a religious argument that mobile phones are now taking over the Bible or the Quran because previously, when a good Christian/ Muslim wakes up, (s)he prays and read the bible as a way of devotion to his / her faith. Now the phone seems to be taking over.
Moreover, there is the economic argument from local sellers that the phone is damaging their socio economic growth in business. According to these watch sellers, now people are no longer buying watches at local shops because the mobile phone makes it convenient for one to access the time, hence for some who own a mobile phone, it will be useless owning a watch. Funny!!!!!
In contrast, it may be important to point out that perceptions are different. Not long ago, I was discussing the use of mobile phone device with a close friend. In his view, many people owning a mobile phone do not make effective use of their mobile phones, thus for him the phone is under utilised by others. He explained that some people now spend lots of money to acquire expensive mobile phone devices which have multi-functionary services. Yet after purchasing the mobile phone device, they do not make effective use of the device. Hence the mobile phone device is being underutilized. Although his argument had some validity of truth, I did not completely agree with it. In my view, I believe that if a person wants to purchase a mobile phone device, the individual should purchase what is within his /her standard. Buy what you can afford. Overusing the mobile phone can cause hazard particularly if the individual spends so much money in topping up credits to make a call. Mobile phone becomes increasing costly to use not only in Europe but in Africa. Both within Europe and Africa, there are some people who own more than one mobile phone because there is intense competition in the mobile phone network industry. Each mobile phone network offers peculiar services making it highly irresistible not only to purchase one. Yet, owning the mobile phone is costly and can be expensive because you have to continually upload credit or use it to call.
Furthermore, continuous use of mobile phone may mean spending too much time on the phone which could have been used for something more productive. An individual may tend to ignore major tasks or responsibilities that need to be carried out while overusing the phone.
In addition, a research carried out shows that the mobile phone device can be dangerous to our health and can cause brain tumours or cancer although evidence on this is still not clear. Since mobile phones operate using magnetic fields, studies indicate that in some circumstances, the magnetic fields can affect living cells. Those who spends too long period of time talking on phone can be fatigued or develop headaches (Care ministries website-accessed on 19thDecember 2011). Also, some argue that heavy use of mobile phones can damage sperms (Daily Express, Great Britain, 24th October 2006- by consumer Correspondent Graham Hiscott).
Again, the mobile phone is known to be one of the number cases of road accidents. Some drivers pick up their phones whiles driving putting their own lives and that of other passengers in danger.
Positive impact of social phone network
Nonetheless, the arguments presented above do not necessarily mean the mobile phone device is not important. The mobile phone device is a very important communication tool as it was built to enhance social contacts and network while enhancing business productivity. With our mobile phones, we are able to update ourselves on where our families and friends are. We are able to know what is happening around us. The mobile phone enables us to be on time during appointments. It also helps in verifying the degree of temperature to enable us chose appropriate dress code for the day. It keeps us informed on current events because of its connectivity to the internet. It relaxes it also when we play games with it or listen to music through it.
Also, since mobile phone network are instituted by companies and not individuals, institutions behind these mobile phone network always make efforts to fulfil their corporate social responsibilities towards the community and often donate towards community development. But in the case of Africa, as to whether mobile phone service network is fulfilling their corporate social responsibility and pays taxes to government is an entirely new argument for deliberation. For the researchers, it may be interesting to examine how mobile phone services/network fulfil their corporate social responsibilities within the society particularly in the case of Ghana. Why do they always avoid paying taxes and come up with new names after every five years? Why is the government of Ghana not seeing this problem that mobile phones companies make huge profit from the poor people and drain them due to their intensive advertisement which entice them to pay and spend more, hence mobile phone companies should be made accountable to pay tax and to fulfil their social obligations to the society?
How does mobile phone network impact on migrant families?
Migrants in the Diaspora continually remits their relatives back home by sending them money to be used for feeding, paying school fees, business investment, transport among many others. There is an interesting observation made which can be brought to migrants attentions. Migration does create dependency. Many migrants are depended on by their families back home so they end up sending money regularly. Most of these relatives always complain they do not have money. Yet, try probing and ask them how many phones they own, two or three. These relatives also may spend a lot of money making calls to their friends locally. Rather than walking up to where their relatives /friends are, they use the phone to engage sometimes in unnecessary, and unproductive conversations. The mobile phones make some people lazy. Now migrants’ families back home are spending their remittances on mobile phone credits and making “unnecessary calls”. The remittance which is to be used to sustain the family in buying call credits. This affects migrants whether directly or indirectly. So what should be done?
A lot can be done. The mobile phone is designed to enable effective social communication and enhance business productivity. We can decide that if this is for productive purpose, then it should yield productive activity. For instance, if I spend 10 euros buying credit, I should engage in a conversation that will yield 20 euros.
Only make use of the mobile phone when necessary, if you want to prevent being addictive to the phone. Never pick up the mobile phone while driving as you put your life and that of other passengers at risk. Also let’s make effective use of the phone. There are a lot of things which we can learn through the mobile phone device. Let us use it positively.
In conclusion, I present an argument that there is a need for us to maintain a good balance of our time with use of mobile phone. We should remember that we bought the phones, and not vice versa. Hence we should make adequate use of our phones only when necessary. Our mobile phones should not take all our attention. As mentioned, using a mobile phone is now very rampant. Even children in basic schools may even own mobile phones. It may be good, but does it really enable these children to concentrate on their education? If you are a student, remember the phone is for communication and network. It is meant to prevent stress of being worried and not knowing where your relatives/friends are, or what they are doing. Once you are with them, avoid frequent use of the device. It will be disgraceful if after you read this article, your boss/teacher caught you fidgeting with your phone while at work or in school. Time is money and each minute counts. We do not have all the time in this world. So let’s make good use of your time and appropriate use of our mobile phone device.
Written By: Abena Bemah
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