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The broken phone syndrome – a view from Gilead

June 13, 2018

These days it seems as though any view that singles out the characteristics of one gender in contrast to that of the other is unacceptable. Even the suggestion that there are two genders is sufficient to arouse a twitterstorm if it comes from the keyboard of somebody with sufficient followers for their comment to be noticed by the righteous watchdogs of the internet. Except in Margaret Atwood’s Gilead, of course, where Aunt Lydia can be relied upon for robust views on the difference between men and women.

Fortunately my profile is not high enough to be on the radar of shame. So I can probably get away with discussing an issue that might cause me to lose a TV series or to be the cause of social media users wasting the equivalent of a small town’s daily energy consumption in rebuttals, expressions of outrage and virtuous condemnation.

My three-part question is this: is it true that the vast majority of broken mobile devices are those owned by women? If so, why? And, depending on the answer, and in the absence of Aunt Lydia’s ferocious imagination, what’s to be done?

In raising this subject I’m driven by personal experience. Apart from me, our infant grandson and my son-in-law-to-be, all members of my immediate family, including the dog, are female. And every female member of my family, apart from the dog, have at some stage over the last few years had phones and iPads with cracked screens. There have also been instances of phones that mysteriously drop down the loo or, in the case of other people we know, into the bath. Note my careful wording. I’m not suggesting any fault on the part of my nearest and dearest. These things just happen.

The loo possibly because at least two of my loved ones insist on keeping their phones in their back pockets, and the bath because relaxing in a hot tub clearly isn’t a complete experience without easy access to the phone.

The cracked screens? I have no idea why objects that are so dear to them end up in splinters, and no idea how said objects manage to escape spontaneously from their cases, which are specifically designed to protect the glass.

It’s not the cost of replacement that bothers me, and anyway I’m not a patriarchal treasurer of the family fortune. It’s that phones and tablets are in their pristine states things of beauty, and it grieves me to see them with shattered faces, even if mostly they work perfectly well.

But it does piss me off that replacing the screens sometimes costs as much as the residual value of the entire device. And it makes me cross that phone designers spend so much effort in producing whizzy new features, and yet can’t bring themselves to equip their products with shatter-proof glass.

No doubt my loved ones will point out that I’m talking out of my ample backside. That I once lost a mobile phone, having forgotten to pick it up out of one of those little boxes they provide for the airport security check. This is true, but in my defence I would argue that I’m losing at least  5-1 in the lost phone stakes.

They will probably also say that my laptop has a broken screen because I was foolish enough to allow Ryanair to put my cabin bag into the hold, trusting that my Lenovo would be OK if I buried it under several layers of clothing. To which I would reply that at least I didn’t drop the bloody thing.

They might also argue that I only use my mobile phone for the occasional call or text, whereas for them hardly five minutes elapse when they’re not doing something utterly critical, life-saving or life-enhancing with theirs. Therefore, given the difference in usage, it’s not surprising that theirs break occasionally and mine doesn’t. To which I would reply that their fingers don’t break every few months, so why do their phones and iPads, which appear to be equally important to their well-being?

Then they could also roll out with old chestnut about women being the great multi-taskers, and men being unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. Therefore am I not being jealous in citing a minor by-product of their relentless productivity? And I might gently suggest that phones are more expensive than chewing gum.

Is this just a Royston family phenomenon? I suspect not. I was chatting with a friend the other day, and I noticed that his phone was cracked. How did you manage that, I asked him? It turned out that he’d lent it to his grand-daughter, and twenty minutes later it came back broken. Not exactly conclusive evidence of a widespread issue, but enough to convince me at least that Houston, we have a problem.

There is, however, a potential solution. I understand that a local council is planning to section off an area of their pavements specially for people who walk along buried in their phones, thereby helping them to avoid oncoming traffic. Perhaps I should create an area of our house, covered in tasteful polystyrene and bubble wrap, specifically dedicated to phone and iPad use. Oh, and we could install netting over the bathtub.

I have yet to come up with an answer to the loo problem. Perhaps an app that makes a gurgling sound whenever its owner inserts their phone into their back pocket. Or maybe a class action against manufacturers on the grounds that their devices are unfit for purpose would get their attention. After all, so many phones seem to drop into the porcelain that there must be some underlying purpose behind dunking your device as opposed to switching it off.

Surely Apple and Samsung can come up with a better way of stopping the NSA and GCHQ from hacking into their phones?

I may be wrong in ascribing a gender dimension to this phenomenon. Perhaps this is a man thing also, in which case I apologise in advance to my family and to women everywhere. Though whether or not I’ve unwittingly propagated fake news, I suspect that after I post this there will be a second inhabitant of the doghouse for a while.

Back in Gilead, I’d be off the hook, so to speak. Aunt Lydia would no doubt have a view – something to do with phones damaging women’s fertility. And she would be busy in a torture cell preparing the cattle-prod, chains and gas ring in order to deter her handmaids from using the cursed things under any circumstances.

From → Business, Social, UK

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