Terence Blacker: On call soon - the perfect modern relationship

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Hardly a month goes by without more excellent news for users of the mobile telephone. Last week, an enterprising media firm announced that a daily text message soap opera would be available to users: 160 words of pure plot, feeding the soap fan's need to know who is leaving/sleeping with/ not talking to/murdering whom without the distractions of atmosphere, dialogue or characterisation.

Hardly a month goes by without more excellent news for users of the mobile telephone. Last week, an enterprising media firm announced that a daily text message soap opera would be available to users: 160 words of pure plot, feeding the soap fan's need to know who is leaving/sleeping with/ not talking to/murdering whom without the distractions of atmosphere, dialogue or characterisation.

Then another technical breakthrough was unveiled. Pornography is soon to be available on mobile phones ­ not in text format, which would provide only limited satisfaction, but aimed at the exciting, visual WAP phones which are, to use a freshly appropriate phrase, quite the coming thing.

Right now, there is not too much mobile porn available and what there is ­ doesn't this make you feel proud? ­ originates in the UK, but that is about to change. The large players in what is known as the "digital adult entertainment market" are investing in this exciting new medium. Penthouse, for example, is already supplying "Petfolios", brief video clips which will allow owners of palmtops or hand-helds to cop an intimate view of their favourite Penthouse Pet.

Digital, palmtops, hand-helds: the phrases that have become part of the language have acquired a new and grubbier resonance. Suddenly the connection bet-ween the traditional solitary vice and the mobile phone ­ that little toy so many people are unable to leave alone ­ becomes explicit.

Take a look at those around you as they fiddle and dial and chat or gaze gormlessly at the little screens on their telephones. There is something in the facial expression, the body language, is there not? The blank eyes? The mumbled speech? The self turning inwards, excluding the outside world? Surely the similarity between mobile phone use and masturbation must be more than a coincidence.

At first, those who succumb may claim, and might even believe, that what they are doing is natural, that it serves a useful purpose, only happens now and again, and then only on special occasions or in emergencies. But soon the digital habit tightens its grip. After a while, they find themselves indulging: playing with it on the train or shopping or walking down the street. Somehow, mobile phone dependency seems more dangerously compulsive than most addictions. A friend is unable to play 90 minutes of football without recourse to it ­ at half-time, he scurries to the touchline for a few minutes of mobile relief. Others experience panic attacks when a flat battery or lost signal leaves them panting and aching on the brink of completion.

Like self-abuse, mobile phone addiction has acquired its own dark mythology. If you play with it too much, you may not go blind or grow hair on the palms of your hand, as the Victorians warned, but your brain could be fried by radiation. Yet, probably more serious than any physiological harm is the harm this habit will do to the personality, to the soul.

Rather than engage with his surroundings, the mobile phone user prefers to reach somebody from his own safe, enclosed world. There is rarely any true communication in this process, as anyone who has listened to these public conversations will know, for they are essentially about reassurance. They are a diddling, unhealthy retreat into the self.

Eventually, telephonic contact becomes more real than any face-to-face contact. Addicts will perhaps be able to achieve full, satisfactory relations with their partner only if, at the same time, they are talking to one another through their mobiles. They arewell on their way to the ultimate destination of the serial self-abuser, a place where fantasy is more real, and more exciting, than reality. At that point, they will dial up their Petfolio for a quick, furtive WAP. It will be the perfect 21st-century relationship.

terblacker@aol.com

Comments