Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mobile phone etiquette

The mobile phone is an ubiquitous part of modern life. Everyone I know either has one or would like to have one. And those who don't simply hate them for what they supposedly stand for. I know I used to fall in that camp - I thought they were intrusive, unnecessary and fashion accessories. And yet, since my time in the Philippines and in Malaysia and Singapore, I have realized just how handy and in some cases, essential they can be!

In Asia, which is generally more enchanted with gadgets and electronics gear and computer gizmos, no one ever debates about the use and abuse of the mobile phone. Everybody has one and it is accepted as a part of modern society and 21st century living. In the Philippines, some young people value it more than food because it is a tool for communication! The Filipino thrives on communal life, communication and making friends. They are also a pragmatic and easy-going people and so major decisions and deals can be made by SMS. No wonder, the Philippines is the texting capital of the world, with Globe (one of 3 main service providers) users alone accounting for more that 14 million messages a day in SMS traffic. That figure is 15 times greater the figure for SMS use in the whole of Europe!

When I was there, it was not unusual for people to text me out of the blue or to simply send 'inspirational messages'. The "missed call" was another way to show someone you cared and thought about them. Initially these seemed like mild annoyances, especially when strangers sent you a text message and you wondered how they got your number. Apparently they just dial random numbers looking for 'text mates'. However, I do rather miss the inspirational text messages and my phone stays blank for days now...

With texting and mobile phones being such a major part of Filipino life (although it has to be said that few people actually talked on them!) it was not unusual to find people of all social strata texting at all times - during meetings, discussions, before Mass (even during Mass!), at the dining table, on the jeepneys and trains, while walking around, even while talking to you! I was rather taken aback by all this initially but soon fell into the habit myself. And it was very much the same in sophisticated Singapore. Countless friends I know simply take calls while out for lunch with me and would chat for as much as 5 minutes at a time... Admittedly that rather irks me.

How very different is the mobile phone experience in England... The one time I replied to a text message at the dining table, I got such looks and was met with such silence that I knew immediately I had broken a social taboo! I have not repeated that again. And as for talking at the table on one's mobile? I think my dinner companions would have a fit! As it is the newspaper often reports on people complaining about mobile phone usage on the train. Trains now have quiet mobile-free zones, as if it were an unhealthy habit like smoking...

Perhaps it is unhealthy! The European governments spend millions researching into claims that extended mobile phone use causes cancer, brain damage etc. I've never heard anyone in Asia worry about that!

In England, the mobile phone is like the Victorian child - seen and not heard. Or better yet, not seen at all! It's almost a point of prestige to say that one has not succumbed to the mobile phone craze. And yet the invasion of high streets by not one but as many as three mobile phone shops seems to indicate that they are as popular in England as in Asia. They are just a lot less visible. Some may say this is a more sensible use of the mobile but I rather miss the inspirational messages of Asia - those that simply say: 'I'm thinking of you', 'I'm praying for you' or 'I'm glad you're my friend'. I rather suspect there is also a certain snobbishness about not wanting to embrace modern innovations; an in-built English conservatism. Unsurprisingly, Asia, which revels in new technologies, far outstrips Europe and especially England in computer and techological savvy.

Somewhere must lie a balanced via media and I think we can begin by not looking at those who choose to use the mobile phone on a train or to send the odd (important) SMS, even at the table, as pariahs. However, all this just highlights how different cultures are and how etiquette changes from place to place, age to age.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi bro.paul imiss you so much

sincerly yours,

5:47 am  

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