Until recently, in my part of Sicily, owning an iPhone was so cutting edge and high-tech that it was basically one step away from being an astronaut.
In a culture where speaking is impossible without bilateral full-arm gesticulation, it was fairly obvious that talking to people using just two thumbs would feel far too restrictive. Yet, as with many other things which I think my beloved Sicilians will never adapt to, they are actually starting to.
The problem is that I am not. Until December I was using this phone.
I do realise that some of my blog readers are younger than this particular piece of equipment, and may need me to clarify that it is a mobile phone, not a house phone or a remote control for the gramophone. I was very happy with it. It was for talking and texting.
I listened to the wireless to keep up to date with world news. I took photos with an actual camera. I watched television on…. the television. I wrote (and am now writing) my blog on this:
Then gradually everyone around me got new-fangled things which are not only phones but also toys. They started using them to send me messages which arrived on my phone looking as if they might be written in Korean. Sometimes I opened texts and wondered if my phone was broken.
For a long time I resisted. I don’t like social networking, I prefer to network socially.
By this I mean meeting human beings in the flesh, walking along the sea front together in the sunshine, drinking a coffee together, making eye contact while sharing a joke… And looking carefully at their faces while listening to them talk, so I can gauge every nuance of their facial expression. You can’t see that on sites like YouTwitFace.
Yet you cannot resist the changing times forever. When I go to London it feels like time travel. Eventually I accepted that I would have to update myself, so Hubby bought me a phone dating from the current century for Christmas.
This was when I fully realised how much our privacy is being invaded nowadays.
If you buy an iThing, everything you know, do and take an interest in is stored and analysed by Apple. They know what you look at online, for how long, and how often. They track where you are at all times using masts and GPS. If you are walking along the street they track where you go, from mast to mast. If you are walking with someone else, they will eventually figure this out, since you will both be linking to the same masts at the same time. Then maybe, when you log onto Facebook, they will suggest a friend for you: it just may be that person you were talking to, even though you do not have them in your email address book, do not have their phone number, and have never connected to them via any social networking site. Yeah, that stalker who you were running away from, who would not stop following you down the road.
If you buy a phone using Andriod technology, you become Google’s bitch. Honestly, they own you. They read what you write inside your emails, and send that information to advertising agencies who then bombard you with what they think you might buy. They insist on “integrating” your Gmail, YouTube, and other Google owned accounts into one. You can no longer have a work email and a separate private identity on YouTube. Oh no, your boss must now be spoon-fed regular updates on which videos you particularly like on YouTube.
You can only escape this by getting a Windows phone and pimping yourself out to Microsoft instead. They store what you started writing in a text box and then cancelled, deciding it was too embarrassing, and they give it to Facebook, which has computer programmes to psycho-analyse your “self-censorship patterns.”
As always, children are the most vulnerable. Have you actually read the permissions you have to give when you download a game? They want access to literally everything you type into your phone – information which has absolutely nothing to do with making the game itself function on your phone.
Having given up their privacy altogether, everyone talks to everyone else using their little electronic toys. Teenagers sit in sad-looking groups ignoring each other, as they are all texting other people who are not there. They don’t look happy.
I call it techno-wanking. They pretend they are engaging in social intercourse, whilst they are actually all alone.
You should go and read, or re-read, Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell. His description of what it is like when Big Brother is watching you will freak you out. We are well and truly there.
“Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plate commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. but at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”
Read the rest of chapter one here. If you dare.