The Distraction of Phones

By | May 6, 2007


Why are we so intrigued by our phones, but not our computers?

I now realise why we buy new cellphones. If we didn’t, there would be nothing to do during those times we find ourselves without external distractions, such as taking public transport, sitting in cafes waiting for friends to turn up (or even, if they have, but turn out to be less interesting than we remember), or during any social function which might involve actually communicating with someone we don’t know (or even ones we do).

That’s when we explore features on our phone. We’re quite happy to spend hours, days, years even exploring every nook and cranny of our gadget to see what it can do. It’s not that we’re particularly interested in it, or what features it might have, but when compared to something as hard as actually interacting with other people, reading the dense and portentous content of newspapers, or even lifting one’s neck to look out of the bus window, we’d rather adopt the more ergonomically satisfying posture of head down, cradling a pleasing form factor and delving into sub-menus with the vague idea of changing a ring-tone, or wallpaper, or something. Anything but actually cope with anything external.

That’s why phone manufacturers add features, and that’s why they bring out new phones all the time. So my question is this: Why, when we’re at our computer, do we not have that same inquisitiveness? Why do all my friends know every single little feature on their cellphone but have no idea what features like “print to PDF” are? And, perhaps more pertinently, why are they so incurious about their computers that the prefer to pick up the phone, or Skype, or cross heavily mined international borders by foot to bug me with problems that could be solved with one, possibly two,  mouseclicks?

One thought on “The Distraction of Phones

  1. Rob Hyndman

    “Why are we so intrigued by our phones, but not our computers?”

    Maybe you and your friends ought to get Macs.


    Not trying to be a smartass.

    Ok, yes I was trying to be a smartass.

    But the larger point is that since I switched to a Mac I’ve found much more pleasure in exactly what you describe. Presumably, because it’s no longer such a pain-in-the-ass.



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