Rab McNeil: Children of today – get off your phones and make pals like we did

I WILL be quite uncharacteristically candid here and confess that, if I were a teenager again, I’d be looking at my phone the whole time, to avoid social contact but to look socially busy. Peer pressure, d’you see? Later, you learn to tell your peers to go and boil their crania.

Today, I do find my portable telephone handy, at least when I’m away from home. But, apart from one mate who phones to talk football, under normal circumstances I rarely get calls or texts from one week to the next. I still use email, but nobody replies to me. I believe they use more modern communication channels now, making me feel when I email that I am wearing a top hat and spats.

The trouble with phones now is that they stop folk communicating face to face, Thus, a study, which you may have read about in your copy of the Journal of Adolescence, shows that today’s teenagers have never been lonelier at school.

This is because they are always doing whatever they do on their phones rather than talking with classmates and making or keeping friends.

I guess too that, as a kid, being on your phone makes it look like you’re keeping up with, er, the kids. It gives the impression you’re important or, ironically enough, socially connected. I think I told you that, when I was a right proper news reporter, I’d go for a coffee with someone who was a library assistant or accounts clerk, and their phone would never stop ringing, while mine remained doggedly silent. As with pets, our phones take on the characteristics of their owners.

I was terribly lonely at secondary school. Somehow, it wasn’t so bad when it was a smaller institution. I was forced into having friends. But, when it went comprehensive, it increased in size massively. Thus, I went unnoticed – few alumni remember me – and I was able to register briefly in the morning before exeunting stage left and spending the day in a nearby botanic garden reading science-fiction novels.

My impression of today’s lonely pupils is that, perforce, they remain on the premises, whereas I found solace in the nearest oasis of nature. It nurtured freedom inside my head. Others – the glib normies and vacuous dumbos – found it in company and social stimulation. But today’s bairns seem to be falling somewhere between these two stools or poops, neither in nor out, but out in the ether. They are simultaneously present and elsewhere.

It is my ill-considered view that they are more to be pitied than scolded while, more practically, they ought to have their phones removed and destroyed. Then they must be made to choose between solitude in nature or sociability at the school hop. Not somewhere in between. For there is nothing there.

Zoom alors

SINGLETONS looking to be doubletons are vetting potential partners on Zoom before meeting for a date.

For those still bothering with such hedonistic nonsense, I thought at first that the ploy might make sense. As you might imagine, a man of my sensibilities has never used Zoom. It makes people’s noses look big. In my case, you’d be looking at a gigantic nose with a wee face attached.

But I’m guessing that, apart from the presence or absence of magnified warts, the key consideration it offers for assessment would be speech. Has the potential date mastered it? Is it mellifluous? Is the content acceptable? Do they listen or is it all gab-gab-gab, me-me-me?

They say women prefer the strong, silent type, but if you just said “Aye” and “Naw” on Zoom, you’d be getting your jotters before you’d even met.

Other considerations limit the efficacy of Zoom. What sort of entrance to a room does a person make? I try to hide my way in. Not good. One of my mates walks into the pub, looking around with a suspicious scowl, as if expecting a sniper.

What about body language, proximity and space, real eye contact? When your potential partner snaps his fingers and shouts, “Haw, baw-jaws, another pint here!”, does the waiter ignore him? Does he carry authority? Is he in command of the situation or is the situation in command of him?

Can two people have chemistry through the screen? What if the chap reeks of patchouli or lavender? What if you’re in a posh restaurant and he drinks the wine straight from the bottle?

So many variables. I’m amazed anyone gets off with anyone at all. Perhaps questionnaires would be a useful precaution? A light essay on a topic of your choosing?

In my compendious experience of relationships, before their inevitable failure, they are matters of chance, of serendipity, of two people being in the right place at the right time. They shoot the breeze, have a laugh; one thing leads to the other.

Fortunately, though, relationships are on the way out. Soon, only the unevolved will still go in for such quaint follies. Everyone else will enjoy their freedom. Babies, like food, will be made in labs. Love will be reserved for flowers and garden birds. That’s how I see it anyway.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *