And some new social conventions
Legend has it that before the invention of the water closet, people (even French Aristocracy, like Marie Antoinette) would just go on the floor, which luckily, even in palaces, just happened to be covered with straw. Hence all those hovercraft skirts and fans and perfumes and all that Dangerous Liaisons stuff.
Then along came Mr Thomas Crapper and the Water Closet Revolution – and a scant few hundred years later, excusing yourself to answer the call, so to speak, is de rigeur.
I have no idea if any of that is true, of course, but it goes to show that sanitation, social conventions and architectural innovation can co-evolve to lift humanity up to a higher level.
We can do this again.
Haven’t we all been there ? In a restaurant surrounded by couples and groups all engrossed in their phones, instead of talking and listening to each other ? And you look around and think “look at all these poor millennials, never properly in the place they’re in, sad comment on our world today, I must take a picture to send to my Instagram followers, oh look a new article from the London Review of Books”.
Think of the countless person-hours of real interpersonal connection that’s been squandered to the demons of Continuous Partial Attention. Think of the problems we could have solved if we’d just talked them over properly. And listened to each other instead of watching the latest Trump video.
No wonder the world’s going to shit — we’re too busy watching it burn on Snapchat to do anything about it.
Something needs to change.
Close your eyes, dear reader, and imagine if you will : the Phone Room.
Imagine you’re at a restaurant. Or a party. Or a meeting. Or a dinner. Or a bar mitzvah. Or a wedding. Or a date.
And one of the people you’re with takes a poo on the floor.
What if :
- using your phone in such situations was just as socially unacceptable
- recognising the unavoidable biological need to use your phone, we created a special room for phone usage
The Phone Room would be a bit like a Toilet (or Rest Room for you Yanks out there) — in fact, it would normally live alongside them. Even better — if we’re all going Unisex anyway, let’s take the old Ladies Rooms and turn them into Phone Rooms. Same size as a toilet stall, padded seat, multi-adapter phone chargers, and a timer to put a lid on those marathon TikTok sessions.
The next time your date’s boring the crap out of you with their theory about how Brexit can be solved by a viral street-level marketing campaign, don’t whip your phone out. Instead, politely excuse yourself and make your way to the Phone Room for a spot of Tinder.
Readers, we can do this.
Let’s rise up together and demand the immediate creation and adoption of the Phone Room in homes, restaurants, bars, clubs, cinemas, and theatres all across the world. Let’s name and shame (on Twitter, if necessary) those who break the new Social Media conventions. And let’s walk together into a new dawn of Actually Paying Attention To Stuff That’s Happening Around Us And Inside Us, And Doing Something About It.
A Better World is Possible.