Christine Grahame: We’re slaves to technology

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Now before I launch into this it’s not because I’m averse to modern means of communication, though I long for a real conversation when I dial my telephone provider/energy supplier/bank and so on.

Let’s not dwell on the “hold” muzak, the information of your place in the queue, and between you and me and the gatepost I sometimes just press any old number for the hell of it when given the one, two, three choice to be met with another one, two, three choice. I certainly hope my exasperation is being recorded for “training purposes”.

There is also the dark side of the internet universe where with anonymity and impunity some hound, insult, defame, hurt and commit criminal acts. At least now as legislators we are trying to address these wrongs. But I need, yes need, the internet as I found out some years ago when I broke an ankle and had to shop for groceries online and a lovely mannie turned up and carted the lot into the kitchen for me as I hobbled on crutches. Mind you I bought some funny things and quantities by mistake, but again let’s not dwell on that.

But where would we be without Google in a pub quiz? I also have a Facebook page but firmly restricted to my MSP work. I rely on my direct and extended family for news of who’s got a new lumber, who’s off to the sun. I am deluged with pictures of my Scottish/Canadian granddaughter (four going on 40) who Skyped Grannie Canada before she could walk so let’s just put all that on the record. I am not a luddite. But tweeting? That’s another matter.

Let me continue. The other day, sitting in the middle of a heated political debate from a conference platform, I turned to my right to see a colleague tweeting away like mad and to my left another typing and flicking through responses. Meantime. in the real world, a ding-dong of an argument full of passion and persuasion was completely passing them by. And no they were neither of them tweeting about the debate and thank goodness not tweeting each other. It was bad enough without that.

Ditto texting, which yes has its place and is useful and yes I do have a mobile phone and text my sister to tell her I have managed to catch the right bus to Glasgow for our occasional rendezvous there as she travels Northwards from Ayr.

We gave our late father a mobile phone so we could check on him when he was at the bottom of the garden and out of landline range and, bless ’im, the first thing he did was texted me “it’s yir faither”! This too has its dark side with children at primary being warned of the dangers of sexting, for goodness sake.

But some folk cannot live without texting. World War 3 could be taking place on the other side of the number 26 bus window and they would never know till there was a direct hit. Some even text crossing the road. Now there’s a direct hit in the making.

Ah but the worst, the very worst of all, is the mobile phone conversation we are forced to hear. Unaware that their voice is at raised volume we are all made the reluctant audience to the intimacies of their everyday lives, and sometimes to the lives of others. The worst offender was a carer who for the entire journey from the West End to Portobello discussed full details of the incontinence of some poor soul.

To this day I regret not turning and saying something to stop the nonstop indiscretion but simply took refuge by plugging in my headphones. But not the next time should there be one.

Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale