“Is that an iPhone?” A student asked me after giving a class. When I didn’t know the answer she was shocked! Then when I told her I wasn’t a mobile phone person her shock turned to confusion. I told her that when I was her age there weren’t any mobile phones or computers, iPads or internet. Confusion turned to horror! “What did you do?” she asked. I told her that for most of the time we just talked, for hours and hours. Horror back to confusion. She was lost for words.

I got on the metro in Madrid. It was full and I had to stand. A nice boy offered me his seat which annoyed me! How old did he think I was?! Looking around the carriage I saw young people, middle-aged people, old people. Some going to school, some to work, others to spend the day shopping or sight-seeing perhaps. They all had one thing in common. They were looking at a device. Most were mobile phones but there were a few eBooks too. Headphones everywhere. They travelled in silence. They were lost for words.

I walked past a restaurant. It was sunny and the terrace was full. I noticed two tables joined together and a family of three generations sitting next to one another. The grandparents, the parents and three children roughly aged between about ten to eighteen. A family meal, that’s nice. Then I noticed something else. Every single one of them was looking at their mobile phone, even the grandparents. They dined in silence. They were lost for words.

In parks YouTube and TikTok videos are more entertaining to parents than watching (and talking) to their kids as they play. In restaurants QR codes have replaced interesting and sometimes amusing explanations of the menu from waiters. Twitter and Facebook are used to find out how a friend or loved one is doing and birthday greetings are sent via WhatsApp.

Families eating at tables, they used to talk. Friends getting together, they used to talk. On buses and trains, people used to talk. Everywhere you looked people used to talk. Now there’s no need for words, we have emojis for those!

Nick Evans

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