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MOBILE MENACE

Modernity can turn out to be a menace in disguise. At one level, the invention of the mobile phone and its dissemination among the masses have revolutionized daily life. The cell phone is a great social leveller. From the corner-store owner to the CEO, people of all classes are able to afford it. It has simplified modes of communication, increased people’s access to essential services, and cemented the illusion of the world being a global village. However, at another level, it has also radically redefined behavioural patterns, especially among the young. There has been an outbreak of SMS addiction, and boys and girls are being literally killed by their cell phones. Recently, two schoolgirls were run over by a train while they were engrossed in their phones. Such incidents have become routine affairs. Every now and then, well-meaning voices are raised about the perils of using cell phones while walking or driving. Yet, people seem to remain impervious to even the direst warnings.

One reason for such deadly nonchalance is the lack of privacy in the lives of people — especially among young people growing up in middle-class families. Few boys and girls have a personal space, let alone a room of their own, where they can use the phone away from the prying eyes and ears of the elders. The young can be fully free only when they are outside the house — a fact that partly explains their dangerous obsession with their mobile phones. Of course, this is only a part of a much more complex picture. With some, no matter what the situation at home, the phone is more like an extension of the self that must be attended to in movie theatres, at restaurants, over dinner with others and, if possible, at unholy hours of the night. Unlike the West, the rest of the world does not care for social etiquette when it comes to using electronic devices in public domain. People use cameras, cell phones and whatnot indiscriminately, with no concern for the comfort of others around them. Unfortunately, very often, they end up paying a steep price for such obliviousness.

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