Forbes: Mobile Lifestyle Revisited


By Marcia Forbes, PhD
CJ Contributor

No Tweeting & Facebooking on the Go

Only six weeks in use, my iPhone suddenly started prompting me that I had no data plan. What data plan? After all, a post-paid service has always been my preferred payment mode. Having gone through several Blackberries over the past years, I have never purchased a data plan. The prompts were therefore ignored as a passing flux; so too were the numerous text messages regarding expiration and renewal of post-paid BB subscription plans. I neither wanted to cancel nor change my plan, never having requested one in the first place. Furthermore I no longer used a BB.

Meanwhile tweeting on the go and facebooking while mobile were no longer possible via my  Iphone.  It was inconvenient! I did not like not being able to upload a quick picture to Facebook, my main method of engagement with “friends.” And most definitely I disliked not being able to share via Twitter. It got so bad that one kind tweep, @pamelmcc, queried my absence, “haven’t seen u on here in a while. U good? Happy and Holy Easter.” Twitter is a real community of supportive people many of whom I miss when they or I take a break.

Back in office after the Easter break, wisdom prevailed and the in-house tech specialist was asked to take a look at the phone. He immediately asked if anyone else was using my instrument. I said no. But, as I explained to him, I had been trying to learn its features by clicking through various settings and educating myself. He dug deep into my settings to see that I had accidentally disabled a crucial setting. This was corrected and I was “back in business” with my mobile social networks.

Coming to terms with a Mobile Lifestyle

What surprised me was my level of annoyance with the iPhone and iPad whenever, for whatever reason, they are unable to meet my demands to connect and engage. I have grown to expect this cordless lifestyle. Equally annoying and frustrating was that the hotel selected for Easter holidays and which promised free Wi-Fi service in deluxe rooms did not make it easy to log on. So there I was with my book, the controversial Lean In, catching up on much-needed reading after futile attempts to get online.

Although a lover of paper books, I’ve grown to enjoy the light-emitting technologies of mobile tools, plus the ways I can enlarge text as needed as well as the vertical or horizontal orientation of the screen which the iPhone and iPad afford.  In STREAMING: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles, I had recognized the various degrees of a mobile lifestyle but had not foreseen how deeply I would embed the features of this in my own life.

Online Learning

It is not only teens who have latched on to a mobile lifestyle but more mature persons too, like me. Based on studies by the Pew Research Center, “one in four teens are “cell-mostly” internet users, who say they mostly go online using their phone and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer” (March 2013). Pew also report that “a survey of teachers who instruct American middle and secondary school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization.” So it’s not just the teens, teachers in the USA are also getting online, many via their mobiles.

While we do not know the state of digital or mobile use by teachers in the Caribbean region, some are making headway. A UWI class in Organizational Communication taught by radio show host and World Bank employee, Gerry McDaniel, recently conducted a twitter chat. I participated as a specially invited guest “lecture.” Not surprisingly, many of the university students were not savvy with this social network. No doubt they would all have been familiar with Facebook.

Mobile on the Move

From as far back as 2009 a Pew survey revealed that over a half (56 percent) of adult Americans had accessed the internet by wireless means, including via a mobile phone. Mobile is on the move! The new buzz for business is mobile. Website must be mobile-optimized. Mobile Heath and Mobile Money are becoming a normal part of many lives. About one-third of adult cell phone users in the USA have used their mobiles to check for health information. Those with smart-phones rely even more on these for health support (52%).

“There are degrees to the mobile lifestyle. It extends along a seemingly unending continuum….Technologies and changing values continue to make it easier to embed mobility in our lives….For one thing mobile technology has moved way beyond the days of cumbersome dumb mobile phones to small sleek, savvy, smart-phones with increasingly multi-functional capabilities, made possible by application (app) software loaded onto their operating system.”  (Excerpt from Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles).

The thought of life without mobile technologies is almost unthinkable for me now. I’ve come a long way in a short time. And to think that the journey into mobile lifestyles has only just begun is mind-boggling!

Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.

Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes


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