Mal Fletcher comments on changing media habits in the UK.

Mal Fletcher
Mal Fletcher

"While you are destroying your mind watching the worthless, brain-rotting drivel on TV, we on the Internet are exchanging, freely and openly, the most uninhibited, intimate and, yes, shocking details about our "CONFIG.SYS" settings."

So said Dave Barry, the celebrated American satirist - who worked, it has to be said, on paper.

Much has changed with the internet since those early, creaky days. Back then, the public internet was powered by a few hamsters on wheels somewhere in what later became Silicon Valley.

Today, the internet, aka the Cloud, is an almost indispensable part of our lives - for better or worse.

Ofcom, the UK's government-appointed media oversight group, published a report last week on the changing media habits of this nation. It paints a fascinating portrait of the internet's burgeoning power to change habits and lifestyles.

The study probably holds little comfort for telephone service provides and even less for TV executives.

Eleven years ago, 52 per cent of Brits said they felt quite attached to their TV. In 2018, that number has fallen to just 28 per cent. Almost half now favour their smartphone over all other devices.

Yet the way smartphones are used has gone through a rapid evolution. Apparently, outgoing mobile call volumes have dropped by 2.5 billion minutes in the last year. This is the first decrease since data collection started.

The report is very revealing on two fronts. Firstly, in terms of the way we communicate one-to-one. Apparently, we've fallen out of love with phone calls.

I think almost every adult in the developed world will remember their very first mobile phone, in the fond way that some of us remember man's first footprint on the moon.

My first mobile phone was, I'm hesitant to admit, one of those bricks with an antenna that you see in history programmes now. It was bulky and ugly, but its great selling point was that you could make telephone calls from almost anywhere.

You could talk to a friend at any time, wherever you were, just by pressing a button - provided, of course, you weren't outside the very limited service footprint (it was more like a toe print).

Today, though, we use our phones for between two and three hours a day - depending on our age - but we're making far fewer actual phone calls. Instead, we're using media, messaging and other apps.

We prefer to message a friend or colleague rather than phone them. Why has the phone part of the smartphone fallen out of favour?