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A phone campaign that's not so smart after all

By Rhodri Marsden

A few weeks ago I was looking at my phone while walking down Bleecker Street in Manhattan. Not being that familiar with New York, I was checking where I was heading using an online map when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some graffiti on the pavement. "F*** your phone," it screeched. "Keep your head up."

I was effectively being told off for anti-social behaviour by someone who'd gone around spraying pavements with an aerosol. With no paper map to hand, I had no choice but to continue looking at my phone, remaining a persistent menace to everyone around me.

In fact, people didn't seem to mind. No one looked at me as if I was spitting in the gutter or hurling abuse at cyclists. But there's a small but vocal anti-smartphone movement who believe that those of us who choose to look at screens in public (or even in private) are living our lives wrongly and failing to experience the wonders of the 21st century.

Bands instruct people not to use them at gigs, posh clubs frown upon them, certain establishments make you lock them away in special cases, New York graffiti artists object to you glancing at them on the pavement. There's no question that phones can be used in ways that are socially objectionable, but for some people they're inherently bad, their usage actively damaging to humanity.

By Christmas, 915 people who helped to crowdfund an anti-gadget called the NoPhone will receive their functionless lumps of 3D-printed plastic in the post. The same size and shape as an iPhone 5 but with no functionality whatsoever, it was intended as part joke, part art project, part social statement. It encourages us to combat the troubling slide towards phone addiction by carrying around this dumb object instead, giving us the chance to experience "direct eye contact and improved conversational skills".

The NoPhone's creators inform us that smartphones are "ruining dates … disrupting you at movie theatres … clogging up pavements". But how many millions of dates have been arranged using the same device?

Anyone who accuses all phone-clutchers of failing to live in the moment is no different, really, to those who once wished that radios, televisions, computers and gaming consoles would burn in hellfire.

If you receive one of these NoPhones, make an opposing artistic statement by taking a photo of it and posting it, geotagged, across multiple social media platforms.

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