Your Phone, Your Fate

Your Phone, Your Fate

Friday, December 3, 2021 12:02 am

Dr. Chris Anyokwu

By Chris Anyokwu

To say that the advent of mobile telephony has changed the world forever, and our life with it, is by no means an exaggeration.  It has not only brought about the so-called death of distance, it has also done many other things, not least, the casting-away of the ancien regime, that is, the old way of organising the workplace and, by the same token, inaugurating and ushering in a truly Brave New World in every material particular.  Once upon a time, landlords everywhere used to be, indeed, lords of the manor in matters appertaining to office spaces, warehouses, stores, inter alia.But not anymore.  With our kleptocratic power-holders and our sybaritic elite doing their level best to set the postcolonial contraption called Nigeria on the reverse gear and thus take us back to the Ice Age, most factories and industries have relocated to saner climes and struck camp, sometimes in neighbouring countries.  Having moved house, these erstwhile industrial zones now lie fallow, at best, being put to alternative use as houses of prayer/preyers and, at worst, as lairs of criminals.   What’s more, even though these physical structures now carry the sign: “To let/lease”, it is quite doubtful if anyone in their right senses would be interested in renting them for business purposes.  In this age and day of hyper-inflation, who would want to invest his money on renting an office building when his mobile cellular telephone will suffice? Apart from that, in keeping with the downsizing of the workforce, and, also scaling-down overhead accordingly, the mobile phone equally helps him organise and manage his-business, thereby playing the role of office “hands”.  Thus, it’s normal to hear people say they are working from home and you wonder: Where from?  The living-room, the study or the bedroom? Where from exactly?  The simple answer to that enquiry is: from the mobile phone.  Needless to add, the mobile phone is a multipurpose device or tool for work and play in our contemporary society and culture.  People use it to transact a whole raft of business deals; monitor their home, vehicle, bank accounts, at times with CCTV connected to their phones; conduct video-conferencing; carry out research and navigate social media platforms  such as Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs and websites.  Interestingly, business transactions as traditionally known are gradually being replaced by online trading i.e., e-commerce.  A lot of people pay their utility bills such as water, electricity, cable TV subscription, hospital bills, and sundry shopping via their mobile phones.  To be certain, all the libraries on earth can be found domiciled on files on a phone!  Therefore, you can access various types of reference material such as Thesaurus, and dictionaries and encyclopaedias on your phone.  You can listen to music, watch your favourite TV shows and programmes on your phone.  How about photography, weather monitoring, GPS navigation, and security and surveillance?  You can be tracked regardless of your location through your cellphone.  Truth be told, the functions of the phone are simply endless.

Earlier stage of hand held mobile phones

When was the cell phone developed and by whom?  What is the relationship between phone and, say, personal computer, a tablet and allied hand-held devices?  The origin of handheld phones goes way back to around 1908 when Professor Albert Jahnke and the Oakland Transcontinental Aerial Telephone and Power Company claimed to have developed a wireless telephone.  Ever since, this technological device has undergone a series of modifications and structural reconfigurations as it was used by railroad companies, the military, especially during the Second World War and by radio stations.  The rudimentary device was later finessed through the introduction of digital signal processing in wireless communications, driven in the main by the development of low-cost, very large-scale integration (VLSI)  RF CMOS(radio-frequency complementary MOS) technology. (See Wikipedia).Motorola, on 3 April, 1973, were the first company to mass-produce the first handheld mobile phone.  These early mobile phones are often referred to as OG mobile phones or Zero Generation mobile phones.  Most phones today rely on 3G or G4 mobile technology.  Smartphones now are common globally and a growing proportion of internet access is now available via mobile broadband.

A word on what’s generally referred to as GSM in Nigeria.  The Global System for Mobil Communications is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to describe the protocols for second-generation digital cellular networks used by mobile devices such as mobile phones (  Some decades ago when the GSM mobile telephony hit Nigeria, its advent nearly unhinged the entire nation as both old and young, rich and poor, urbanites and country yokels were completely swept off their feet by the vertiginous excitement over the ease of interpersonal communication conducted through wireless devices.  It was too good to be true, particularly for people who had never invented anything a laAimeCesaire.  On tree-tops, in toilets, on speeding motorbikes, on the road, just name it!  People insanely enamoured of mobile phones were seen talking in loud voices into their handsets as though their interlocutees were right in front of them.  It was simply utter Bedlam!  It was, indeed, a General State of Madness (GSM).  Frankly, even today, neither the enchantment nor the spell has left us as folk are still caught in varying degrees of technological lunacy.  More on that later on.


As earlier noted, with the exciting advent of the mobile phone came later on the social media revolution, thanks to the World-Wide Web (www) or, simply put, the internet.  With the internet, the marriage between the mobile phone and the PC, the laptop or similar miniaturised devices has never been rosier.  Speaking of which, it’s not enough to own a phone, it is infinitely crucial to own one that stands out, one with class; a status symbol.  In this regard, you have global brands such as Turaya, Motorola, Samsung, Nokia, Tekno, Sony, HTC, BlackBerry, Alcatel, Google, LG, and Apple iphone.  Thus, it’s a question of show-me-your-phone-and-I-will-tell-you-what-you-are-worth.  This ensuing class war over the quality and the brand of handsets has led to the mad rush to own one of these exquisite phones, the under-aged and children also entering the charmed circle of high privilege.  Intriguingly, unlike television where parental guidance (PG) is displayed on the screen, the handset does not display any age-restrictions.  The world of the mobile phone, teeming with bilge and muck, is an all-comers’affair, there are no border-patrol police or gatekeepers to shoo off inquisitive minors.  It is a democracy of utter excess and license.  So, everyone (NO age-limits!) is at liberty to rush inwhere angels fear to tread.  Small wonder, then,netizensi.e., virtual dwellers or digital denizens) do visit forbidden territories/sites such as pornographic sites, sex farms, and also indulge in trolling, “flaming”, bullying, body-shaming, blackmailing, prostitution rings, sex trafficking, religious fundamentalism, and scopophilia or voyeurism.   Besides, the occult and allied dark arts equally thrive on cyberspace.

Following the scenario depicted above, Frances Haugen, a 37-year-old former product manager turned whistle-blower, heavily criticised Facebook at a hearing in the US Senate.  She said that the Company’s sites and apps harm children’s mental health and stoke division in society.  In the same connection, Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three girls, it has been alleged.  In a 14 September, 2021 online statement, it’s said that Instagram is toxic for teenagers.

Frances Haugen

Again, Joanna Hoffman, who joined Apple in 1980 and later worked at its spin-off technology company, General Magic, had said that she found tech leaders today to be “remarkably ignorant”.   She criticised leadership at Facebook (now MEGA) for not being accountable for some of the harmful effects the social media platform has had on society.  She also claimed that certain aspects of the social media giant were “destroying the very fabric of democracy, destroying the very fabric of human relationships and peddling an addictive drug called anger”.  Anger, youth, society!  What a combustible cocktail, one which more often than not leads to various forms of antisocial acts and/or radicalisation.    Welcome to the Huxleyan Nightmare on a global scale.

Joanna Hoffman

There are many dangers attendant upon the obsession with the phone.  Children and youths, for instance, tend to lose all interest in academic work, preferring instead to fritter away hours on end on their smartphones, listening to music, watching “Blue films”or Netflix films, cartoons, comic strips, sit-coms, telenovas, sports, Tic-tok skits, etcetera. People operating their phones while sitting precariously on speeding okada; while walking in streets and on roads busy with human and vehicular traffic are common sights.  Even while in class, or in bed in the wee-hours of night, in places of worship (i.e. church and mosque), in bathrooms and public toilets, people “bury” themselves in their phones.  As highlighted above, extremely dangerous elements easily find these phone addicts targets for criminal and antisocial indoctrination such as terrorist recruitment, initiation into cults or the occult, identity theft, misanthropy, misogamy and battles of the sexes or gender discrimination.

Recently, medical experts made public their research findings on the effect of addiction to phones.  It was found out that excessive use of the phone could cause brain tumour, reduce attention span,, provoke anxiety, lead to loss of coordination, insanity, schizophrenia and similar schizoid behaviour.  The internet is a veritable nursery for the creation of weirdoes Bohemians, nihilists, and the insane.  Defiance of authority and deviancy are the fruits of excessive attachment to the phone.  Modernity and its discontents a la Sigmund Freud and Steven B. Smith, are further spawned and sired in the amoral digital ecosystem.

Sigmund Freud

Therefore, beyond the primary function of using the phone to make and receive calls, the device is liable to be deployed for an infinite range of other activities even as culture or civilisation barrels towards a “sci-fi”future.  In this post-Apocalyptic future, the virtual is poised to become the real and vice versa.  It’s a world dominated by robots and cyborgs and humans shall be the endangered species.  In the dizzying whirligig of change and innovation in which society is inevitably trapped, what’s to be done?  How do we save and salvage our children and ourselves?  Perhaps some form of regulation is required to control social media.  A modified social media bill can be re-introduced to the National Assembly to be promulgated into law.   Unregulated liberty is sheer bondage.  On a global scale, the US lawmakers need to exercise greater oversight function by holding tech executives accountable for their digital content.  Also more parental responsibility, oversightand mentorship are required to help rein in the tendency in their children to cross the line.  Parents should set an example in this regard.  Example, they say, is better than precept.  The media, schools, the church/mosque, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), among others must redouble their effort to help curb addition to the use of cell-phones.  Like the knife which is at once a kitchen appliance and a blood-letter, the phone is equally a good servant but a bad master.  Does your phone control you or do you control your phone?  The way you use your phone will determine ultimately whether you succeed or fail in life; whether you are fulfilled or miserable in life; whether you are holistically healthy or sick (including in the head), whether you are alive or dead.  Your phone, mate, your fate.


Chris Anyokwu writes from University of Lagos.


Join The Conversation

One Comment

  • Olakunle says:

    I think the precarious effect of GSM (the Global System of Mobil Communication), as it is ascribed in this article as “General State of Madness” has vehemently endangered, not our health and social life, but also our culture. The exposure of gadget and online website has immesnsly influenced youths and teenagers to embrace westernized culture which I tag as “Complex or crazy culture” in which teenagers engage in sexual intercourse life on social media without regards to our customs and rites. Also, we have seen many indigenous citizens of Nigerin whose rights are trampled through the action of exposure to sexual movies and adult activities. For instance, the buhaha and chaotic has turned many sane and well-cultured citizen to weirdo and animals in which males are engaging in females activies, or to the worst male are mutiliting their sexual organ to be like ladies all in the name of exposure on internet.

    Without doubt, I presume this predicament has eaten deep to the edge of cultural extinction and total craziness in the country where youths and teenagers do not pay homage to their parents as our culture because some unscrupulous culture is more advanced and more preferable.

  • What do you think?

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.