Back to Brick (Part 4)

December 28, 2013 4:17 PM

Rachel Loveday’s Back to Brick feature explores technology dependence and addiction in the 21st century through the perspectives of six people of four different age groups. In Part 4, the final part, the perspective of a former classmate of Rachel’s, who does not own a mobile phone, will be explored. Rachel will also conclude the piece with her perspective after her interviews and research.


Vivian*, fellow classmate, 47.

The day I interview Vivian, I was having a bad day in my relationship with technology. I had to pick up a video camera and the tripod to go with it at the uni, so I could make a video for another journalism assessment task, because the battery was flat I had to take the bus home and charge it. The bus driver was taking his sweet time as he was answering messages on his iPhone, at one stop he actually got off the bus to make a call on it. I eventually made it back to my place to plug the video camera in its charger as the person who borrowed it before me didn’t charge it before returning it to the uni. I also grabbed my recorder for the interview as well as my notepad, although I realised on my way back to the uni that I had forgotten my pen and my list of questions. Because I forgot my list of questions, I had to write them down as a draft message on my mobile phone. Because of having to go to the uni, having to take the bus back to my place and to get back on the bus to uni, I ended up running late for my interview. I was hoping that Vivian would be kind and wouldn’t be too upset. I would have texted or called her to let her know, only she doesn’t own a mobile phone, which was the reason why I was interviewing her in the first place.

When I arrived, I apologised for showing up late and told her my thought about being able to tell her that I would be running late if she had a phone and she laughed. When I bought my phone earlier this year, I set up an event on Facebook to get everyone’s phone numbers. This is a common event, without fail at least a couple of times a year, Facebook friends of mine will do this. Vivian messaged me back her landline number, it was then she told me that she doesn’t own a mobile phone. When we started the interview, I finally asked her why, she gave me a slightly surprising but honest and not so-strange answer.

“It goes beyond choice to refusing. It’s multi-faceted in part by watching my family and friends interact with their phones and not wanting to be like that and I also didn’t want my brain to be rewired or changed, it was also in part by recognising that the mobile phone is meant to be a tool that the human has control over as opposed to the mobile phone having control of the human.”

Vivian stated that this effect has expanded in her family to her three year old niece who has grown up with iPads and is so use to it that she views a magazine as a “broken iPad”. That being said, Vivian told me that she did compromise and owned a mobile phone for a while.

“I was the late owner of a mobile phone, I had a hand me down of my sister’s for a while. When I had the mobile phone, people would get more cross with me then when I didn’t have one because when I had the phone, people wanted me to respond to a text straight away. When you use the mobile phone as a tool at your convenience and check it when you want to check it or don’t take it with you on a walk, people are crosser with you then when you didn’t have one.

“People have mostly gotten use to the fact that I don’t have a mobile phone. There’s a lot of things that I do differently than my family and friends do. I have a landline, an answering machine, an email address, a Facebook account—there’s a myriad of ways that people can contact me, I’m just not immediately available all of the time.”

Vivian’s decision not to own a mobile is also heavily influenced by a medical phenomena that people are experiencing more and more these days—Phantom Ringing Syndrome. The syndrome is basically people believing that they hear their phone ring or vibrate with a call or message when in fact, it isn’t. Research is still being done on this, but there is a belief it is caused by the electromagnetic signal from a phone vibrating effecting nerves, although this is still highly debated. Vivian’s experience was from living in the bush with an over enthusiastic bird mimicking the sound of a landline phone.

“When I was living in the bush, there was a bird that use to imitate the landline phone ringing and I would go to the phone and it wouldn’t be ringing. When I had a mobile phone, I would hear it ringing and it wasn’t. Everyone’s become hyper vigilant, they stop listening for the ding and they wait for the ring. It still happens with the landline. I would still rather have nothing and have people write me a letter or come and see me in person, it would make me happier.”

Due to her ability to live without a mobile phone, due to her refusal to own one, she contemplates how relationships today would be different without all of the technology at everyone’s disposal, which is something to think about it.

“I can’t help but wonder what kind of relationships we’d have without technology and the convenience of it, such as television and going to the movies. I’d think we’d have better relationships and be more content without it.”

I have the same thoughts as Vivian on this issue. What relationships would I have without technology? Every single person in this story I met in person but I interact with them through technology. I talk to my parents and brother over the phone, I interviewed them over the phone for this. I put up a post on Facebook looking for people who were younger than me, Joshua and Sarah did send me Facebook messages in response, but they told me in person first that they were happy to be a part of it. Technology was the story, the subject and partly the journalist by enabling me to contact people for this story and conduct research. Sarah told me that my use of technology for this story is ironic and it really is. I wonder what the next generation will think when they read this story in years to come.

*Name has been changed.

 More information on television, mobile phone and video game console technology can be found at a website specifically designed for this story.