Food For Thought: What We Can Learn From The O2 Data Crash

As chaos across the world continues, with November being Yemen's deadliest month in two years, sexual abuse in the aid sector disturbing Nepal and France having a protestors vs. government crisis, some other citizens have had it much worse... their mobile phone data crashed.

On the 6th of December 2018 there was a public outrage at mobile network provider O2 as users of the service reported that their mobile phone data was not working and this continued throughout an entire day. The Daily Mail couldn't have described it better when they wrote that “customers face more misery as mobile network says 4G data services are not expected to be fully restored until tomorrow morning”. Not to forget the amount of public wifi points we now have around the country, by the way.

02 data crash

When I look at news stories about the people of Venezuela and Guatemala fleeing their own homes, their own countries in order to find a better life elsewhere, because of the poverty and violence they are enduring, of course, all I feel sad about is the fact O2 users were not able to play Candy Crush on their morning commute.

Okay, I will quit the sarcasm now, but you see my point. In some ways, people almost cannot be blamed for behaving this way, as technology has become so integrated in our daily lives that it genuinely does become relatively difficult to go without data for a day.

For example, those who use train tickets on their mobile phones were unable to download them, meaning some had to fork out even more money on rail fares. Also looking at some of those who work in the healthcare profession and have to use phone apps for time sheets and to access patient information and so on.

credit: Downdetector

credit: Downdetector

One woman complained about her husband getting lost in London as he was not able to use his mobile sat nav. Some complained of services such as Apple and Google Pay not working, which obviously would be a huge hindrance in your day if you weren't able to make financial transactions. I am sure there are plenty of other useful and vital services that mobile data does provide that many couldn't access that day, too.

Many O2 users were not happy, as you might imagine, yet some were calm and humorous about the situation, saying they had an excuse to avoid work emails, and some exclaiming their dismay of actually having to look at people.  

The epic data crash of 2018 signalled a sort of worrying feeling, ultimately, of how reliant we have become on technology, not just because we want to, but because we need to. As mobile phones become more prevalent, with 95 percent of households in the U.K. owning one of these powerful little devices, the less autonomous we become from our phones.

The word 'autonomy' strikes as one that we really need to focus on here, because it feels like due to smartphone addictions, autonomy of thought is dying out. How many times have you shouted “Google it” to your friends without bothering to actually think about what it is you need?

02 data crash

How about using the 'Maps' app on your phone without first trying to seek out a place using road signs and asking people (that's right, real people!) or even just using common sense as to where it is? From jotting down important dates, to that very important little thing we call 'telling the time', we use phones for just about everything… tasks that could easily be done without an app, e.g. meditation apps - does that not defeat the object?

Mobile phones are becoming too dominant in our lives, and yes they're great for many things, especially keeping in touch with people, but when going to use your phone for something more trivial, or something you could actually be stimulating your brain for (think calculators) try not to go for the easy option and reach for that little rectangular UV light.

We have lived without phones before and we are more than capable of living a life without being fully reliant on them. Face to face interaction, paper books, nature and engaging with your mind and thoughts are not bad things! As a nation it seems so important to not let go of reality, humanity and a life besides a machine. No one wants our lives to end up like an episode of Black Mirror...


An opinion piece written by Becky Waldron