My old cellphone has become a topic of conversation these days. Friends, colleagues and students cannot believe I ‘still’ posses an ‘old’ mobile phone (see picture below). They cannot help but comment on how antiquate it is and how ‘weird’ it feels to see something like that being actually used by another human being.
This is the typical example of how our society is embedded in the GDP madness of consuming things at an ever-faster rate. I’ve heard people in the telecommunications business comment that in some countries, the average rate at which people replace their cellphones is every six months. My cell does exactly what it is supposed to do. It makes and receives calls, and it sends SMS. Probably it does even more, but I never bothered to find out. It’s not even so old, as I remember buying it back in 2007. Why should I dispose of it? When we dispose of a cellphone we are not only wasting useful raw materials, but we are incentivizing a system of exploitation that ravages many countries around the world. Especially our African neighbours, who suffer continuous civil wars because of the global scramble for the rare metals that make up these gadgets. We should rather treat these things as precious items, with care and long-term maintenance.
The same friends, colleagues and students who laugh at my phone also ask me how I manage to publish one book and several scientific articles every year, while teaching, running a research centre and being a dad. Well, I think that this is also somehow related to my phone. Most people are connected all the time, jumping from their whatsapp on their smartphones to the iPad. For me, time is precious. And since my ‘old’ phone offers no distractions, I actually have plenty of time to think and write.
This morning, at the traffic light, a guy approaches me. He was one of those young beggars who populate our South African streets offering to collect trash in exchange for some coins. He looked at my phone and said: “Sir, you still have that phone?” I laughed and replied: “Of course, it works perfectly.” He looked at me and commented: “It’s also very strong. You can drop it and it doesn’t break”. Absolutely true.
Check the video below for some more thinking about smartphones’ impact on our society: http://youtu.be/OINa46HeWg8
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