Yesterday, a woman journalist from a Sinhala weekly newspaper called me to seek comments on appropriate phone use. I asked why. She said that excessive phone use had caused a man to kill his wife by knifing her. She wanted to write a piece about appropriate phone use, with quotes from me.
I said many things in response. But the gist of my comments was as follows:
Assume non-existence of the mobile phone. “A” has the choice of communicating face-to-face with “B”, an obnoxious person who is likely to ruin one’s day, and “C” a normal person. Would one blame A for choosing to communicate with C, eschewing communication with B? Would one write about appropriate communication behavior, after an enraged B knifes and kills A?
Now insert a mobile phone into the hands of A who is co-present with B only; there is no other person in that space. The mobile phone creates opportunities for communicating millions of others, represented by C. Rerun the scenario.
How do I know that B is an obnoxious person unworthy of attention, of being communicated with? A person who knifes another to death for whatever reason, is by definition an obnoxious person (in Sinhala I used a harsher term, Alugosuva, meaning executioner). A husband who knifes his wife to death is by definition unworthy of being communicated with.
In sum, the only inappropriate things the deceased had done were (a) marrying such a horrible person, and (b) not divorcing him. Nothing to do with the phone.
In addition, I pointed out the inappropriateness of asking me questions that implicitly blamed the victim for being knifed to death.
It would be interesting to see what the journalist writes.