Blog Words : Paul Goldstein | 15 June

Why smartphones are the bane of travel

Paul Goldstein lets loose on how smartphones are impacting the travel experience

This morning I saw an urban fox cub trailing behind its mum.  Within a pace of this pair of ginger scamps, was a sharp-suited commuter who missed both of them as he was far more interested in the tablet in front of his eyes. He was still glued to his screen when he just avoided walking straight under the wheels of a Vauxhall SUV.

Even if he had stepped on the younger fox he would not have heard its anguished squeals as he was plugged in too. A few moments later I passed four ladies ‘enjoying’ a morning cuppa outside a café. None of them were drinking or indeed speaking or even looking at each other. All were gazing twitchily into their smart phones – ‘socially’ networking no doubt.

There is a well-known cartoon from the New Yorker  which shows a caveman juggling blazing torches in front of his loin-clothed pals. Beneath it says ‘before fire we used to talk to each other.’ The advances in these gadgets is remarkable, however the increased addiction for so many, not so.

As tax payers in the UK, you and me are paying for an NHS clinic in North London which does its best to wean people off their digital narcotic. Over four hours use a day says you are addicted. Does this shock you? It should and what is worse, this addiction is increasing and even less defensible abroad.

If someone is having their frontal lobe cauterized by a meaningless PowerPoint presentation (tautology surely?) the temptation for a little bit of surfing is forgivable, but when magical travel moments  are compromised then neutered by the demands of Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, the addiction has increased to class A.

This is not a lament for Poste Restante or pigeons, but ponder this: nothing can ever emulate the genuine thrill of your first leopard, mountain peak or grade five rapid. These are frequently life changing moments to savour and inhale, often far beyond megapixels and impossible to replicate. Sometimes it is better not to try.

It permeates everything. ‘There were three people in the relationship’ has never been more pertinent twenty years on since Diana’s fateful words. People wake up with them for their early injection and cannot fall asleep without a final fix.

If they mislay their Galaxy or iPhone their demeanour turns from just pinched, to one of intolerable anguish. Their vocabulary is polluted as is their grammar: words like GoPro, message, Facebook and Instagram have now somehow become verbs. Drinking and dialling was bad enough but people are now learning of serious issues affecting them by text, WhatsApp or Twitter. There is nothing ‘social’ about this.

Utter trivialities are plastered over every square centimetre of the social ether. These largely bogus postings invariably come with the absurd addendum that their friend balancing three cheesy Wotsits on his or her tongue has gone ‘viral’.

This now meaningless term actually just signifies that over twenty people have clicked, liked or shared such bilge. No doubt some equally moronic forum has put this ’on trend.’ (Now there’s a phrase I really hate) This ridiculous vernacular has probably been dreamed up in the flashy boardrooms of frothy people who work in the odious and over-paid superficial ‘profession’ of branding.

They have never been more accurately portrayed than in BBC2’s superb ‘2012’ satire. (‘We think you will sell more product if you change your logo from royal to powder blue and make it lower case, err that will be £25K’). These Tristrams and Tamara’s love their fluffy terminology of ‘leverage, traction and synergy,’ but have no spine, much like the huge majority of social media postings. The exceptions are frequently both invigorating and moving, but becoming increasingly rare.

I don’t own a smart phone, I can text and make phone calls. We did survive a long time without the need to send poor images of one’s breakfast or smug postings of the departure lounge at Terminal Five.

I never see anyone actually on the phone, this would be far too convivial: libel is so much more fun than slander. Talking is their last resort after apps and social media. They have their own bastardised language, few can hold a pen now, let alone write and whole lives are dictated to by their high tech accoutrements.

Instead of reaching for a Marlboro, pint, chaser or gram, they reach for the smart-phone: that superfluous flourish out of the back pocket and check that no-one’s missed them too much. It is a drug: a big fat tablet, and they keep taking them.

Try banning them over a bank holiday or Christmas, particularly if you are abroad. Initially it will be appageddon. But once people realise that the world is still spinning, take a look what happens.

Oh, and please check out the video, it sums it up perfectly.  It may even have gone ‘viral’ or, God forbid, be ‘On trend’.

Main Image: Always connected (Shutterstock)