Recently I sat down in front of the TV to watch Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Final. I was struck by the fact that on several occasions the umpire had to ask spectators to stop using mobile phones and cameras as the light flashes were disturbing the players. The BBC coverage even showed one grinning idiot in the crowd who was continuing to flash away just seconds after the umpire had made his announcement.
Sadly this is not a problem unique to tennis matches. When did you last go to the cinema and not have to tell someone to switch off his or her phone? I no longer go to the cinema or theatre as often as I used to, partly because I don’t want to spend the evening reading the Twitter feed of the person sitting two rows in front of me.
In recent years some theatres and concert halls have experimented with various devices which jam mobile phone signals. However Ofcom, the Government agency which regulates these matters, has ruled that the use of these devices is illegal. Ofcom recommends, somewhat naively in my view, that theatre and cinema managers should instead educate the public in the appropriate use of their phones. Good luck with that!
Even MPs regularly sit in the House of Commons seemingly hypnotised by their phones rather than actually taking part in debates.
Inconsiderate mobile phone use isn’t just annoying. It can also be lethal. Despite some recent high profile cases of deaths caused by mobile phone use at the wheel, I still see motorists texting and making calls every day. Of course, using your phone while driving is illegal, but a disappointingly high number of people seem to think that it’s worth the risk. I should declare a personal interest here as I am a Trustee of Aftermath Support, a charity which offers support and assistance to people who have been affected by road traffic collisions.
I have nothing against mobile phones. They are a great invention and a marvellous aid to communication. The problem is not with the equipment; it’s with the humans who use it.