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Have you become a mindless ‘phonatic’?

If the phone is the first thing you check as soon as you wake up, you are in need of some serious help

Gulf News

A mobile phone maker surveyed people to see if they still have a life in this connected world and knows that I take my cell to the loo.

My cat sits at the bathroom door scratching at it wanting to get in and meows puzzled whenever I snigger at a snarky remark on Twitter or answer the phone when it buzzes. He thinks the loo is the happening place to be.

I did not think that taking the phone into the washroom was gross so answered the survey question truthfully and was not aware until a health website pointed out that the most germ-ridden tech thing I own is my phone. It showed me how to get rid of faecal bacteria by wiping the phone with an alcohol sanitiser disposable tissue.

Still, I hope someone would design a waterproof iPad stand or a mobile phone holder that attaches to the water closet so I would not have to hold the phone all the time and get carpel tunnel syndrome that feels like I have a tennis elbow without even playing tennis.

Old timers think that smartphone users are a bit cracked in the head to get their news off a tiny 5-inch screen. “For the past 35 years I have only been reading a print newspaper,” says one elderly person proudly, I met in Bengaluru, when he heard I am a freelance journalist.

(I was afraid to tell him that my new avatar is a Storyteller and Blogger). “Do you read the paper in the bathroom?” I asked him.

“First thing in the morning after my morning cup of tea,” he said, looking at me strangely. “I read all the sections, even do the crossword while on the Throne,” he said.

So, apparently things have not changed in some sectors of our existence, but Motorola thinks our obsession with phones is out of kilter and that we all need to get a life.

Magical product

It seems like ages ago but it was just 10 years back when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and called it a “magical” product.

Little did he know that people would take the smartphone, the mini-computer everywhere with them, in the toilet, while driving and texting in a Ferrari in Dubai, or while driving an Uber, riding a bike, or when crossing the road as in Bengaluru, India, and jabbering away madly as the impatient motorists surge towards the pedestrians.

The phone maker said the survey was done to analyse how we connect to a mobile world and what are the possible causes and how it impacts us.

“New technology has created a new world and we have to understand its effect on our behaviour in a more meaningful way,” it said.

It said that while the smartphone brings us closer to those who are far away, “it sometimes separates us from those who are right in front of us”.

So, if you are like me who panics when I see the phone battery dying as I am riding in a autorickshaw on Brigade Road or on the morning commute from Ajman to Dubai on Etihad Road, or if the phone is the first thing you check as soon as you wake up, you are in need of some serious help.

The survey has shown that the UAE is one of the five countries which has the highest number of ‘phonatics’, after Colombia, Australia, Singapore and Argentina. (A ‘phonatic’ is a person who looks at their phone without knowing why). Incidentally, three Indian cities are tops for phone-life balance: Mangalore, Guntur, Visakhapatnam.

If you feel the need to unplug, the phone maker suggests you download the app Offtime (really!) and be with the people you love without feeling that you are missing something in the mobile world.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.