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South Wales Evening Post columnist Mal Pope on dealing with his smartphone

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 30, 2013

Monster mobile ... Dom Joly on Trigger Happy TV.

Monster mobile ... Dom Joly on Trigger Happy TV.

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IT'S probably time to be honest with you and myself. I have a problem. It starts first thing in the morning and goes right through until I close my eyes to sleep at night.

Sometimes my problem actually wakes in the middle of the night demanding my attention.

During the day my problem is never more than three feet away from me. As I'm really getting this stuff off my chest I need to tell you how bad things have got. If I don't know where the problem is or if by some dreadful mistake I leave home without my problem, I feel naked, exposed and somehow vulnerable.

My problem is my smartphone! I know it's wrong but these days I just can't live without it.

I always thought the term personal computer was an odd description for the lump of metal, white plastic and television screen that used to dominate my office in the 1990's but these days my smart phone couldn't get more personal.

It carries all of my photographs, music, emails and it rarely leaves my person. Any second I could hear from friends on holiday in Samoa or learn that my doctor's appointment has been moved to Thursday.

In the space of a decade or so I've gone from sending a few emails every week from a machine that used to take five minutes to dial up and log on to sending a few emails every hour from the palm of my hand. (Dial up and log on … kids, you'll have to Google that one!)

In fact these days I don't have a phone anymore, I have a ''Phablet''. It's halfway between a phone and a tablet. It still looks a little odd when I hold it to my ear, a bit like that comedian Dom Jolly used to look in his TV show Trigger Happy, but it really comes into its own in reading spreadsheets and news reports on the move. I can even catch up with a missed episode of Match of the Day courtesy of the BBC iplayer whilst I'm supposed to be working.

Now every meal I have is photographed and shared with all of my ''friends'' on Facebook and Twitter. Within seconds I can check what is the capital of Outer Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar in case you didn't know or don't have your phone to hand) and get directions to anywhere in the world with a choice of driving, public transport, cycling or walking. It even tells me how long it will take to get there depending on how I decide to travel. It's like having the ultimate library, personal organiser and shopper in my pocket. It's everything I ever saw in those 1960's television shows like Tomorrow's World . I couldn't be happier, could I?

To be honest I'm not sure and I think the problem is I don't know who's in charge, me or the phone. In the old days things naturally took time. That could be very frustrating; waiting for a cheque in the post, postcards from abroad, reactions to contract negotiations. These days the wonderful benefits of being online 24 hours a day means there's nowhere to hide, nowhere to be off duty. You email a question and two minutes later you get an answer, which probably leads to more questions.

But it's not just that these days we're working all of the time. There's always the danger that an ill considered tweet or facebook status could come back to haunt you and even lead to the end of a job, a contract or relationship. Those great pictures you thought were terrific fun and should be shared with the world on Beaujolais day might not seem such a good idea come Friday morning. This technology is dangerous and we can't be trusted to use it.

I was told this week about the Drunk Lock app. The idea is that if you know you're going out and think it might turn messy you turn on the Drunk Lock App. This clever little app stops you from using your phone until you've done some tricky math question. The idea is if you're too drunk to work out the answer to some algebra you're probably too drunk to share your thoughts about your new boss with the whole of the twittersphere!

There was another report this week that because people now take their phones and tablets into the bedroom they are putting at risk their ability to do things in the bedroom they used to do. The light from your average tablet screen can surpress your melatonin levels by up to 22 per cent leading to changes in our circadian systems. That sounds serious doesn't it? And being awake in bed doesn't lead to what you might expect as another report this week said that all that texting and updating your status puts us off whatever else past generations would have done in bed if they couldn't sleep, if you know what I mean.

So what am I going to do? I'm going to take control of my life again. I'm going to step away from the mobile.

If I can I will try to be strong and I might even decide to leave it at home. And because of this wonderful technology you will be able to see how I'm getting too. I'll keep you informed via Twitter …

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