On a northern line train running from Edgware through to Charing Cross I was taken by two things, the total metropolitan and cosmopolitan feel of London. London is a truly a global city, and the amazing and exciting thing about riding the tube and taking public transport is that we can immerse ourselves in it. No two people on my Northern line train appeared to originate from the same country. The other very noticeable thing is that everyone was using a mobile device.
We had iPhone and Samsung and Huawei and Sony and Nokia and Google and it struck me that even though we ebbed in and out of signal, even though we were interrupted from our thoughts and content by a constant flux of stations and people we were engaged, we were morphed to the security and comfort that the mobile device radiated. Everyone sub- consciously knew that the mobile phone brought contentment in a tumultuous environment, it connected us to our music, our family, our friends, our office, our movies, our appointments our games to our lives. The mobile device closed the gap between being out of touch for any period of time with anything we had on the go and the here and now.
As I glanced down the carriage I wondered about what the here and now might be for the many people sharing the journey with me, and it got me thinking and cheekily taking a stroll through the busy carriage to try and see what people were doing while riding the Northern line.
Lady one, could have been Spanish or Italian, definitely of Mediterranean origin engrossed in what seemed a furious game of sorts or some kind of vicious text or SMS response. I moved in closer to see that she was working her way through an app that made learning English simple and that required significant thumb dexterity.
I shuffled down the carriage and encountered a second woman, lady two. Lady two was from the Far East and was wrestling a cohort of shopping bags that would pose a challenge to most middle-aged men. I was curious as to what experience her mobile phone was sharing with her and was disappointed to see, she simply had the map of the tube up and was working out how many stops to Selfridges. Counting and recounting the changes and stops between Hampstead and Bond Street so that she could no doubt send a short message to a friend to meet her and help her carry her bags.
Passenger three, a religious man who got on at Golders Green and seemed oblivious to anyone else in the carriage, he was deeply absorbed by the content on his older phone, nodding and shaking whilst reading and scrolling through what became apparent was Hebrew text. This man fascinated me, using his phone to connect to a higher power, something more spiritual something bigger than any of us, a sort of bulk message a volume based SMS response from something or somewhere that gave him solace and comfort to such a degree that he could block out the real world which included me and the other passengers in the carriage.
Nearing my stop, on a journey which had become far more interesting and worthwhile as I undertook my methodical research I started to realize just how disruptive the world of mobile telecommunications had become, allowing us to close off and cloister ourselves behind the screen of an iPhone and ignore the life that passes us by. I wanted one last research sample, I guess I was hoping for something that would demonstrate to me that humankind is still human and that we can function live, laugh, smile, love, eat and be free from a world that is so technology or device dependent. I was just in time to catch Passenger four, a young man in his late 20s flick from his dating app to uber eats. As I departed the train, the platform announcement rang out “mind the gap”.