Belfast Telegraph

How did I ever cope without my mobile?

By Frances Burscough

A report was published last week which presented some truly shocking statistics about our dependence on technology. It seems adult internet users in the UK currently spend an average of 25 hours per week online. Imagine that - more than a whole day surfing the net which, when you add it all up makes approximately 55 days out of every year.

Now don't be too impressed by my mental arithmetic, because I worked that figure out using the calculator app on my phone. Yes, I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to modern technology. I seriously don't think I could manage without it now, even though it's only about 13 years since I first logged on to the internet (which, as I'm 52 years old amounts to 25% of my life according to my trusty calculator app!)

Further Ofcom statistics revealed that 42% of us go online 10 times a day, while 11% do it more than 50 times a day. The report came out last week and on the same day I was invited by BBC Radio Ulster to appear on an evening chat show to discuss digital dependence. Sadly I had to refuse because I was in England at the time, staying with my elderly dad whom I mind for a week once a month.

I couldn't even join in the discussion over the phone either, because I had already agreed to drive to Liverpool to collect my son Finn off the Stena ferry arriving at 6.30pm from Belfast that evening. So at 5pm I jumped in my car to make the short drive to Birkenhead ferry terminal. I'd done the journey hundreds of times before and I knew that it took between one and one-and-a-quarter hours, depending on the traffic. Wee buns.

I told my dad I'd be back in a couple of hours, scooped up my dog Bailey (who loves car journeys) and set off down the M6. Within 10 minutes though the traffic slowed down to a halt. I'd allowed extra time for delays so I wasn't unduly worried, so I simply turned up the radio and sat back, waiting for whatever was causing the delay to clear. The only problem was, it didn't. As the clock on the dashboard clicked ominously towards six o'clock I started to worry I might actually be late. So I texted Finn to warn him. "May be late," I typed. "Accident on motorway or something. Wait in terminal if I'm not there when u disembark."

Meanwhile the traffic was going nowhere fast. By now it was way past half-six and the queue ahead of me stretched as far as the eye could see and there was no let-up. I texted Finn again. "Still stuck on M6. Can u find out what's causing delay?"

Within two minutes he replied: "Been on Traffic App. Says a lorry crashed into bridge at J27. Shed its load across all lanes. Bridge unsafe; All traffic being diverted off M6. Up to 4hr delays expected."

Great. Perfect. There I was, with my poor elderly dog stuck for four hours in traffic. At least I was able to explain to Finn and he wouldn't be worried and he could check progress online.

Next up, the phone rang. It was my dad, really upset by the sounds of it.

"Fran, Bailey isn't here. I've looked everywhere but I can't see him. I think he's escaped!"

In case you didn't know, dad is suffering from Alzheimer's. I'd told him I was taking the dog with me and he'd even waved us both off at the gate, but he'd already completely forgotten. Thank God for the mobile phone, again. At least I was able to explain and put his mind at rest.

Then a few minutes later another text, from Finn. "I'm starving, I've not eaten since lunchtime and the cafe here is closed. What shall I do?"

I thought for a couple of seconds, then had a brainwave. I phoned Dominoes Pizza, ordered a pizza to be delivered to the ferry terminal and then paid using my credit card.

"Pizza on its way," I texted back. Another problem diverted, thanks to my beloved Smart phone. Just then I remembered the subject of the radio show. I decided to ring them up there and then to describe, live on air, precisely how dependent I am on modern technology but just as I was dialling my battery went dead...

Belfast Telegraph


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