I’ve lost my mobile phone. Since I was stupid enough not to get it insured, I’ve still got to pay for the bloody thing, in monthly instalments, until 2019 or something. (Note to economists: consumers are not rational. Many of them will not buy insurance even when they’d be idiots not to. This is why John Edwards’ health care plan is better than Barack Obama’s. ). Since my phone was (bar internet cafes) my only access to the web, I’ve pretty much got bugs crawling under my skin, the withdrawal symptoms are so bad. It turns out I did a simply ridiculous amount of reading on that gadget; now my eyeballs are popping out into the information void.
Some advantages mobile phones have over computer-based browsing.
1) You can read academic articles in public without looking like a freak. Everyone in the world (everyone in south London, anyway) spends their waking lives staring at their phones. I guess they’re reading text messages or something. But it means I can happily read whatever I want (provided it’s on line, which most everything is) and not look like a maniac. Try reading an economics textbook at the bus stop, and see the kind of looks you get.
2) It enforces a certain kind of attention. I find it pretty difficult to read stuff on a computer screen – the urge to skim (which I rarely feel when reading actual physical paper books) is almost irresistible. (Not entirely clear why that would be; something to do with your distance from the screen, your inability to physically hold the thing you’re reading, a certain discomfort or lack of bodily engagement? Who knows…) On a mobile phone, you have to scroll down all the time – you can only read a small portion of text at any one moment – so you have to pay full attention to every word, even when you’re reading casually. I find this helpful.
3) Plus, of course, you can just carry a mobile phone around with you. Even if you’re only got a minute and a half to spare, you can pack in a small amount of self-education or pointless blather. For those of us whose actual lives are mostly distractions from reading, this is good.
No mobile phone for me now, though. My Google Reader account is piling up bile and analysis from around the world. Unreachable! Unread! This blog is soon going to get radically less well-informed – which I didn’t think was possible.
Maybe I should buy an internet connection of some kind. Or – I’m thinking outside the box here – another mobile phone… I’m just not sure I can bear to pay for two monthly contracts.
That buzzing sound you hear is the world’s smallest violin, on mute.
 Though neither is exactly unimprovable. This debate is one of those things I just don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you have a progressive-tax-funded, single payer, universal coverage health care system? What’s to dislike?