Mobile Phones Make People Angry
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jun 09 19:45:00 GMT 2004

It's no surprise that people like the power of having a mobile phone with them at all times. However, the level of anger displayed at being cut off goes beyond reasonable.

There are many situations where it is clearly inappropriate, technically problematic or downright dangerous to be using a mobile phone. Most people, when thinking clearly, agree. However, when someone needs to make a phone call in those situations, they seem to forget that rational thinking. What's most amazing, though, is that those who are forbidden to use their phones tend to react with a level of unexpected anger.

Most people agree, for example, that it's inappropriate for someone to take a phone call during an important meeting. However, those very same people become stressed and impatient when they cannot make or take phone calls themselves.

This "mobile phone withdrawal" syndrome seems especially noticeable when people are traveling. Despite laws all over the world forbidding the practice of "driving-while-yakking," many drivers simply can't resist -- and even get upset when other drivers find their divided attention driving problematic. In fact, a Progressive Insurance study from a few years ago found that more than half of those who expressed road rage, also used mobile phones behind the wheel.

A new incident in Vietnam underscores this point dramatically. A young woman has been forbidden from flying Vietnam Airways after she attacked a flight attendant who tried to get her to stop using her phone in flight. The woman apparently slapped the flight attendant and then threw water in her face after being told to shut off the phone.

There is something very liberating about the communications power that mobile phones allow. Taking freedom away from people -- even if for their own safety -- seems to have quite an emotional impact. I tend to believe that most reports about mobile phone addiction are hyped up, in order to drum up additional business for psychologists, but clearly people have a problem letting go. The level of anger people have concerning their mobile phone is clearly out of proportion with the problems. It's still not clear what made a man trash a Verizon Wireless shop last month, but perhaps someone should look into whether or not he was cut off from using his phone.