I somehow managed to make and keep dates with friends in high school and college without mobile phones. Meaning, we’d decide a place and time to meet and then would, without texts like: “on my way” or “5 minutes behind.” And without calling and saying, “I’m wearing a blue top … oh, I see you! I see you! I’m waving.” Somehow, we managed to do it without all that.
Let that sink in for a moment. It’s weird, isn’t it?
We rode places together often, because we didn’t live too far from one another in my hometown or college campus, so it was easy to pick someone up on the way to get a snow cone. Oh and the time we had to kill. That’s what I miss most.
I wonder what it was like living and working in a big city like New York before mobile phones, when you were meeting people from different parts of the city and had a schedule to keep. If you said you were meeting for lunch at noon you were meeting for lunch at noon. And if for some reason you couldn’t, perhaps you’d stop and use a pay phone to call the restaurant, and the maître d’ would go to the table and tell your friend you weren’t going to make it, and your friend would be sad but meet someone interesting at the next table. That’s how I think things happened, but I might be romanticizing from movies. I did throw a maître d’ in there just because it’s a French word. Perhaps one of my readers can share what that it was like to live in a big city before mobile phones.
I heard a guy on NPR talking about newspapers. He said this: use your imagination and pretend newspapers never existed. All along you’ve been getting your news like you do today—through alerts on your iPhone or Twitter or news websites and TV. Now, he said, imagine someone told you there was this brand new service. Each morning, a person would hand deliver a freshly printed paper with the latest news to your doorstep. Just for you. One you could hold in your hand. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? I’ve told a few people this and they’ve scoffed at this man’s view, but I tend to agree with him. It does sound like a luxury. A novelty. But then, I find the size and fold of newspapers awkward so perhaps that could be revisited.
Here’s another question for you, one you really must think about before answering, and you really must answer, even if not on this blog. It’s far-fetched. My husband is used to me creating elaborate scenarios then asking him what he’d do. It might hurt a little the first time if you’re not used to it, though.
So, someone comes to you, someone really powerful, but not God because I don’t want the implications of that to affect your answer. And this person says: You have the power right now to snap your fingers and make it so that mobile phones were never invented. Would you do it? Here are my stipulations: this won’t affect people’s jobs or the economy or anything like that. It’s not a moral question. Just a question of how life was before mobile phones and how it is now and which you’d choose. That’s what I’m curious about.
Now, same question for Facebook.
Isn’t this fun? Next time I see you we’ll have beers and discuss more.