Monday, 8 August 2016

Left to Their Own Devices

Possibly  not the pub of the future
Strangely not attracting as much comment as expected was this article in the Telegraph.  While it could be considered a brave move to rob people of their mobile communication convenience,  there will always be one bar owner who tries it, and probably enough people who hate the ubiquitous cellphone enough to go somewhere to ensure they avoid it.

For the other 99% of the population, convincing them of the value of face-to-face conversation as opposed to social media may be difficult. Go into any pub outside the "rammed" times of Friday and Saturday night, and you'll see pretty much every customer  (and staff member) fiddling about with a device of some description.  I'm writing this in my local, and it's what I see in front of me now. In fact, not being glued to a phone is probably grounds for service refusal these days, as you may be too drunk to focus on a screen.

In most situations,  trying to separate people from their oh-so-essential social media is doomed to failure.  Despite the predictable protestations to the contrary,  people actually prefer dealing with others through the Internet than the risky and messy "traditional" methods. Not only can they edit what they say before saying it, but it gives much more opportunity for grandstanding narcissism which most people are, sadly, prone to.

As someone writing this on a tablet in a pub, I'm aware of the irony. But, unlike most, I have no problems admitting I'm a miserable, misanthropic bastard who prefers to deal with others at a distance. I assume most people don't think of themselves this way, despite the vast amount of opposing evidence.

So, despite the alleged success of Mr. Tyler's Faraday-caged bar, perhaps the modern licensee with an eye to continued trading would be best advised to work with social trends rather than against them.  It may work for the odd place, but for most it'll be doomed to failure.

We've now reached the point Ian MacDonald predicted 20 years ago, a "multifocused and fragmented techno-decadence into which the First World is currently  sinking as if into a babbling, twinkling, metronomically pulsing quicksand."

MacDonald indicated what he thought of this by committing suicide in 2003. But the rest of us have to accommodate it and move on.


  1. People still do talk to each other in codger-type pubs. I suppose that will be gone in twenty years' time, though.

  2. A month or two ago in my local, there was a group of six young people, three male and three female, sitting around a table not saying a word: all were engrossed in their phones. I can't help but wonder whether ubiquitous communication devices will - ironically - stunt the ability to communicate by reducing face-to-face dialogue and increasing the reliance on txt spk.

    1. I don't know about this - If they were all reading newspapers it'd be a group of friends parusing the papers and sharing a companionable silence. But coz they're looking at phones it's portrayed as some sort of technogeddon.

    2. I don't think I've ever ever seen a pub table with young men and women perusing the papers together in companionable - or any other kind of - silence. I have quite often seen young people sitting around a pub table in silence staring at their phones.

      Why is such an observation comparable to technological Armageddon (which is what I assume you mean)? Armageddon means "a dramatic and catastrophic conflict, especially one seen as likely to destroy the world or the human race". Your suggestion, not mine.

    3. I was using hyperbole to illustrate a point - Which I suspect you're aware of but if not, well, you have my condolences.

      So - Let's try again, shall we? What I meant was in the past, a group of friends could sit silently in a pub checking up on current affairs/celebrity gossip/cartoons/whatever by reading papers and it wouldn't even occur to anyone to think anything negative about it. Nowadays though a group of people sit silently in a pub checking up on current affairs etc via a digital screen and you've suddenly got speculation along the lines of - "I can't help but wonder whether ubiquitous communication devices will - ironically - stunt the ability to communicate by reducing face-to-face dialogue and increasing the reliance on txt spk." - It's the end of the world I tells thee.

  3. Perhaps the three young males more interested in playing with their phones than chatting up three young females in a pub are among the same cohort that the NHS recently reported: as suffering increasing incidence of erectile dysfunction due to online porn addiction. Perhaps self-induced extinction of their generation will make way for a generation more inclined to interact in ways more conducive to human evolution.