I saw an ad today, I don’t really remember what it was for, but it was one of those futuristic ones with a world dominated by touch-screen interfaces, gleaming surfaces and the like. The thing is that while those ads are supposed to represent a sort of utopia, they chill me to the bone. Yes, we live in a world that is increasingly interconnected, but at the same time I would like to keep some boundaries, thank you oh so very much. I would also like to retain the right to just be me… or at least I would like to retain some semblance of control. No, I’m not a technophobe, but I see no need to rush in just because some marketing guy (or gal) somewhere has new gadget to sell. I want to be able to adopt only those technologies I believe benefit me, and I want to be able to adopt them when I want to and in my own terms, but at times I feel like I can’t. One very simple example: there are a growing number of services online that either require that you provide them with your mobile phone number outright, or that keep nagging you to supply that information every time you log in, where you don’t even have a ‘don’t ask me again’ box you can tick. Yes, I realize that an SMS message can help keep your account safe, and because of that giving your service provider your mobile phone number can be a good idea, but the thing is that I don’t know of any law that requires people to have a mobile phone (yet), and none of these companies list having a mobile phone as a basic requirement in their TOS, so why do they demand that you provide them with the mobile number you are not required to have in order to take advantage of their services?
Sure, I know this example applies only to a small fringe group. I know most people have a mobile phone (if not a smartphone) and don’t see such a requirement as a burden, but while having a mobile phone has a number of undeniable benefits, I am also aware that there are some who have chosen to opt out of that particular bandwagon, and I can most definitely appreciate their reasoning. Let’s face it, there are some distinct advantages to not being available 24/7, and to not being expected to be available 24/7. It’s called retaining the ability to set some basic boundaries because, let’s face it, just owning a mobile phone is enough to create certain expectations that all but impossible to overcome (family time? What family time? Your boss has a right to call you whenever he/she wants, he/she expects you to pick up the phone and, seeing how you know it is your boss that’s calling you, you know you better take that call).
Anyway, I am wondering why that add bothered me so much. I guess it was because in light of what we have learned in the past couple of months about electronic surveillance I have come to distrust mobile phones more and more (not that I was ever too keen of the blasted things to begin with). I see them as intrusive, as tools that can all too easily be turned against us, and I also see the way in which they have become a de facto requirement. No they haven’t passed a law that says we have to carry a GPS tracking device with us at all times just yet, but almost.