Express & Star

The Big Debate: was life better before mobile phones?

Are you glued to your mobile of do you long for simpler times? Dan Morris and Andy Richardson answer the question: was life better before mobile phones?

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Have mobile phones improved our way of life?

Dan Morris: Yes, it definitely was

Not so long ago I walked past a pub with a proud A-board out front.

"No, you may not have our wi-fi password," it said. "Talk to each other!"

Absolutely the world was better before mobile phones, or, to be more accurate, would be better off without them now.

The planet's just gone mad. Decline of face-to-face social discourse aside, in the last 12 months I've seen at least five people nearly run over as a result of crossing the road while glued to The Devil's own touchscreen. It's ridiculous. Checking Facebook is not worth playing the odds against a 10-tonne truck. You'll lose, and it won't make for a pretty status update.

I've seen footage of children 'swiping' book pages, unable to understand why the words don't move or the pictures don't get bigger.

I've heard of kids shrugging off the idea of being heart surgeons to become 'TikTokkers', and, almost most frighteningly of all, I've seen a new generation of pub-goers turn up that sit locked to their smart phones instead of – as that aforementioned A-board encouraged – talking to each other. Face-to-face social interaction is withering. If we're not careful, it will die.

At the recent Bletchley Park AI safety summit, Elon Musk warned that artificial intelligence represents "one of the biggest threats to humanity”, suggesting that technology, quite simply, could takeover. But look around – are we sure that it hasn't already?

Get rid of mobiles. Now.

Andy Richardson: No, mobile phones are an essential part of life

I was late to the party. After we’d passed through the ‘brick-phase’, when mobile phones resembled the sort of construction item that is usually used to make a wall, and when prices fell to make phones affordable, I moved in the exact opposite direction.

Mates would text. I’d read a book. Friends would spend all day on their phones. I’d go for a walk. Willfully uninterested, I turned the other eye, or cheek, or ear, or whatever it is you’re supposed to turn.

And then this non-mobile-using-poacher became game-keeper. Literally, in the case of Bubble Pop, Sudoku. Oh, do keep up.

A man who refused to join the mobile phone revolution became one of its greatest acolytes. And now, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll answer a call, WhatsApp, or email within less than 20 seconds – unless it’s a bank, scammer, or branch of the civil service.

In the list of stuff that’s so important I’d be lost without it, I think ‘mobile’ ranks sixth. She Who Is Always Right is number one, obviously, with son at two. Parents, sister, brother, uncle, nephew et al are a close third. And then anything in the fridge finishes fourth. In fifth place it’s keys. And in with a bullet at number six is ‘mobile’, with wallet just behind, though, with money now digitised, I guess my mobile is my wallet, too.

Banking and photos, diary and emails, contacts and work, leisure stuff and funnies. It’s everything in one neat, flip-it-open bundle. How does anyone live without them?