How Mobiles Can Kill You in Jordan

Sometimes I feel utterly depressed about the use of the latest technologies in Jordan. It seems every time I visit the people are up to date on the latest technology, having model numbers of mobiles memorized as well as the features that come with each one. I admit sometimes there are certain technologies I am completely unaware of in North America only to discover them already being used and sold in Jordan.

The main utilization of this technology seems to be the youth, who represent over half the country’s population. What drives me crazy however is how this technology is used.

Take for example the group of guys sitting around at Hardees who decide to send love notes, love songs, even pornographic images to random girls they see sitting in the vast restaurant. Bluetooth technology makes it happen. In most cases the girl rejects receiving anything and goes on eating her dinner while the guys are laughing. Sometimes she sends a message for the guy to respect himself or grow up, which gives way for another laugh. In other circumstances however, well…you can use your imagination…

In another example 2 guys are sitting on a bus while a man and his fiancé are sitting behind them. The man from the back suddenly stands up and accuses the one sitting in front of him of using his mobile phone to take pictures of his fiancé. A physical fight ensues where other passengers join in. It turns out he did take pictures with the phone.

There is a variety of other real life examples, these are only two that I either witnessed first hand or heard about from a friend. I’m sure anyone living in Jordan can come up with their own real life examples with no difficulty at all.

I think if mobile companies in Finland or Japan or the US ever want to conduct a study about the misuse of a technology they should come to the Arab world. There is practically no regulation of technology in the country. Since it came to Jordan the Internet has been uncensored. While a fuss was made over mobile phones with cameras in the beginning they have flooded the market. Bluetooth technology as well. I think perhaps this is the main reason there has not been a huge social backlash. Plus not many can afford the technology so they usually are ignorant of its existence.

Saudi Arabia on the other hand, where most of the population can afford all these technologies, has had some backlash with almost every practical technology introduced into the country. From the Internet to Mobile Phones to even MSN and Yahoo! Messenger.

Recently I posted a piece about calling a number to arrange to get married both permanently or temporarily. Now even Bluetooth technology has become controversial in the kingdom.

To many this would seem a silly subject but I assure you it is very serious. Remember my second example about the guy who took pictures with his phone of someone’s fiance? Well just this past April a man shot his divorced sister after seeing a picture of her on his friend’s phone. Another honor crime in Jordan.

Upon searching early on last summer for places that could fix my broken mobile phone I waited for a store owner to finish a conversation with a potential customer. The latter was a boy of (maximum) 16 and from his accent was most likely from Kuwait or Iraq. He was obviously very wealthy as his shimmering Mercedes convertible was parked a few metres away by the curb. He was looking for a phone that had a specific camera. He wanted something that could zoom in from far away and take high quality pictures. The owner offered him several which did not meet his demands and he kept insisting. I waited patiently but the owner finally understanding said to the boy “leish? 3ashan il banat?”…”why? because of the girls?”. The boy nodded and for the next 5 minutes showed the owner what I assume are amateur voyeur pictures of girls in places like Mecca Mall and Abdoun Mall.

He did end up buying a phone. It cost him around 400 JDs ($564). More than the majority of Jordanians earn in a month. In fact at my friend’s house this summer I heard an exchange between his brother of 10 and his mother. For his birthday he wanted either a Sony Playstation 2 or a cell phone. He did not want to use the phone as one would expect but rather it was a symbol of stature in his 5th grade class where everyone who was anyone had a cell phone. When I visited my teachers at my old high school in Amman, one of my teachers who was supervising an exam was sporting a very hi-tech phone he had confiscated from a student. He told me in the mornings nowadays the floor supervisor will go around with a big basket for students to pour their phones in so they can collect them at the end of the day. On Thursdays, the dawn of the weekend, some students will pick up someone else’s phone by “accident” so they can use it for the weekend.

The Xpress company’s walkie talkie technology has been the basis of many conversations I overheard at the barbershop. You would think these two people chatting (more like yelling) out loud for all to hear would be talking about an important business deal. No, they were talking about what their wives or mothers had cooked for lunch that day and how it was prepared.

On the other hand this technology is now being used in the post-Amman attacks as a means for hotel security in Amman to co-ordinate with greater efficiently.

It is the digital catcalls which disturb me the most I suppose. The new way of snickering at a girl by sending her an mp3 of an Arabic love song or a Bryan Adams’ ballad. Is this the reason why Jordan was named the most competitive cell market in the Arab world?

The problem is that Jordan remains a conservative society for the most part where a girl’s reputation can be ruined if she is seen with a man and as I mentioned before she may even see death.

I do not advocate government intervention and regulation as I do not believe in that. In the months following the Internet’s introduction in Jordan back in the late 90’s, employers rushed to impose surveillance technology and many people were fired for looking at pornographic sites while at work. I do however advocate social revision, for the people to use technology in a good way because it is such a great resource, such an essential tool for progress in this age. I do not want to see the Internet, or Mobiles, or Cameras, or Bluetooth or any technology that is introduced to us by the outside world added to the long list of negative things we have taken from them and the good things we have left behind. A list that now includes movies, music, pop-culture, magazines, and practically anything that lacks the need for innovation on our part.

Caution needs to be taken and good sense exercised. Because technology can kill you in more ways than one.

(so can obnoxious inappropriate ring tones, radiation, driving while talking and accepting calls during a movie, but that’s another sob story)

“A cat was run over!”


  • Aaaakh this is so “3al waja3”!!

    Thankfully my parents are still resistent of my young brother’s pleas for a mobile phone because “all the kids in class have one”!

    And the whole issue with the misuse of the cameras is very disturbing! Besides of course the ringtone craze and all the stupid jokes and pictures and videos that circulate… did you hear the story about the girl fight at one of the Universities here, it was shot on mobile and sent all over the kingdom; two girls fighting and pulling hair and all, and guys standing in a circle and taking pictures!!! It is horrible I just don’t know what to say!

    But how do we start a social revision of these practices?? How do people become more aware, mature, and responsible in their use of technology? Sadly ya Naseem we need regulations sometimes… or a complete social and cultural revolution that will shake people up a bit!!

  • That is a very important issue Nas

    There is a commercial that I came across when I was watching one of mbc channels and it is about this topic .. it goes like this: a guy enters a restaurant and sits down, puts a stocking on his head to reflect that he is hidden and unknown to others that he is behind what will happen .. then he starts sending bluetooth sms around .. then they show you how people are disgusted and provoked from the messages they are getting .. he stands up and gets out while taking the stockings off his head and no one knew it was him .. then the narrator says: technology is a blessing, do not misuse it!!

    If only they listen
    I witness the obsession about getting the latest technology in mobile phones and this is another way mobile companies are using to get people to subscribe with them, by offering this technology at a lower price or with a convenient buying plan, and I just don’t get it .. why do I need a phone with a camera when I can get a camera? why do I need my phone to do wonders when all I need from it is to be able to conduct calls?

    People are missing the point! Mobiles are supposed to be used to facilitate life, to solve a problem, but what is happening is that people made mobiles a major part of the many problems that our society suffers from .. so when does it stop? and at what cost?

    It is a steep long learning curve .. people need to realize the consequences of their actions .. that is the only way!

  • First of all, thanks for taking much of your time writing about such an issue, I was so happy to see that their is still some individual and even families who are so aware of such “Bad” use of technology.

    You brought up the role of family and parents specially for youngsters under 15, I guess this is a crucial, parents should have a major role in guiding and helping out their kids. I guess also that parents should be aware that a mobile phone in a hand of a 5th grade student is not so useful !!

  • interesting topic.
    . rather than sensor and block technology a la saudi arabia we must self regulate ourselves. Offenders should be prosecuted. Here in England a big story last week was a gang happy slapping a man to death. they used their mobiles to take a video of them beating him to death – they were found guilty last week. interesting you should mention japan too, they have a problem themselves of peeping toms and the such taking pics of unsuspecting women

    oh and switching off bluetooth would take a couple of seconds.

  • Lina, my fear is that any sort of regulation will lead to an increase in the abuse as so often is the case in Jordan. You can’t stop people from taking pictures or disabling their pictures. Companies could stop handing out bluetooth like it was candy though.

    Khalidah, I agree with you 100%. Over here the camera phones have not caught on nor has bluetooth (compared to Jordan), instead you have phones where you can surf the web, listen to mp3’s and watch live tv on. I dont think we have the live tv in jordan yet but if we do get it in the months to come then you will see an increase in car accidents during the world cup.

    thank you both for your comments

  • Bashar, sadly I believe even the parents find some sort of excuse to justify it. The school I was refering to is of course private and consists of many spoiled students. The friend I was refering to, his brother ended up getting a PS2 as his mother is very educated and culturally aware unlike other mothers who are in that upper class category that includes having their kids being raised by the maid. I despise the cell phone culture. I do not like talking on the phone generally and I use my cell phone over there only as a means of communication through SMS because it is difficult to survive without one. Over here in Toronto I don’t have one at all. As you said, much of the power now lies in the way parents raise their children, though they will eventually get to an age where peer pressure and social pressures take charge.

    tony adams
    , you are right, it’s on us to self-regulate. The problem with this is that rarely is anyone willing to.

    thank you both for your comments

  • Nas, I sure hope not … the accidents rate is high as it is in Jordan .. we don’t need yet another reason to increase the percentage .. but I think that mobile companies are racing now; who will be the first to get this technology first?

    It is strange how the Jordanian market does not benchmark with anything … it is so different and on so many levels, and not only in the mobiles or computers industries; pick any industry in Jordan and you will see and impressively competitive market and the funny thing is; no one goes out of business; they all are working and profiting .. which makes Jordan a case study for marketing and sales people .. because no theoritical theory they learn at schools will apply to this unique market … trust me; I have learned this the hard way 🙂

  • Khalidah, this is mostly because of two things: first the country has opened its markets and began privatising everything. second, a little while after it did this the iraq war caused a flood of wealthy people from all over to flood the country. And I have consistantly been saying to myself exactly what you just said: it “makes Jordan a case study for marketing and sales people”

  • Nice piece. But this is how it is when new technologies are introduced within a confused culture. Technology is revealing to us the amount of social problems we have in our society, the amount of emptiness, unhealthiness of the relation between men and women, boys and girls… it is also giving a chance for the society to discharge all the problems of a deprived society…

  • Thank you for this post.
    I have often thought about this, and I think that one of the main reasons why people- mainly youth- misuse technology is the emptiness of their lives. When you’re bored and have nothing to do, you start making up forwards to circulate around. You mess with other people. You see it work- you enjoy it. You’re then ready to spend your money on the latest technology that will make this even more fun. I have always believed that if we were more active, involved, aware and focused, we would definitely not need to misuse anything- we would acknowledge new technologies as powerful tools that can make our lives easier and more effective. If we had a goal, we would want to use everything to serve this goal. This is what youth need, in my opinion. Plus, more awareness on the parents’ part. If they choose to allow their kids to have something, they should make it clear that it is NOT because “everyone else does”, but because this is a technology that could be useful and positive in their lives, and they should take the time to show them why and how.

  • hey there

    well, jordan has alot to learn, mostly about everything. the influx of all those “new things” are great but there are ethics behind using such stuff, privacy issues etc.. i guess it comes down on the individual person whos aware that other people around him have their privacy as well.
    i would suggest that tech. companies inform people on such issues of proper use and avioding misuse, its very important that people realize the problems that mobiles can cause and i know its tempting to have all this tech and not use it but again ethics should be practised..maybe some social awareness advertisments be used its more of a social responsibiltiy..

  • Karim, you strike a valid point however its begs the questions of how many of these problems were already there to be revealed by this new found enthusiasm in technology, and how many of these problems were born from the specific misuse of the new technology.

    In my opinion it is more of the latter.

  • Rania, I agree with your second point however your first raises the question of who is it that is bored enough to engage in such semantics? I see it coming mostly from rich kids. Is it possible that they are simply bored with every toy they’ve ever gotten like spoiled brats? Possibly, but I’d like to think (or at least hope) that this comes from more than just boredom and that there is a real problem here that needs to be remedied. thank you for your comment 🙂

  • Faris, I do agree that ethics need to take charge in the name of social awareness however for some reason all the projects that have come before this problem seem to fall on deaf ears. People follow the general society in our country, so we are looking at an attempt to shift the social paradigm of a particular environment which of all things is extremely difficult to do in Jordan.

  • i understand the whole shifting of paradigms, but its important that a change happen, with change comes responsibiliity. It was like when internet was made public and hacking became the norm but then overtime it was questioned and now its illegal, not that i am saying it has been completly stopped but its was a start.
    One thing jordan lacks in light of all this development upheavel, is social development on all levels. Soceity, culture seem to always clash with this new jordan facelift and it worries me. We all hear new talk in town about so and so project and so and so games and toys here and there but yet people act so primative ‘excuse the term’ around new toys and games or plans and such a case being mobile phones, the problem was even there during the early inception of mobiles in jordan, when people starrted using them to call people in the same place they were restaurants or whatever.
    I think its shame, you know its like when a child learns to talk he never shuts up ‘i know its a bad example’ but it really fits, and when you tell him to stop talking he cries. People abuse their phones and one days things might just come back at that first and smack him right in the face and he then starts to cry.

    Maybe set up some support center where reports of absue can handles, there shoud be some way one can track an mobile phone abuser, maybe through IP address or something, i am no tech freak i am just going at a limb and guessing. But its important the public be aware of such issue and there ought to be some form of punishment by the end of the days its still abuse or harrassment.

  • I honestly don’t know exactly how bluetooth software usually notifies you of other phones that you can connect with. How do you know that you’re sending the phone to that girl sitting with her friends and not that other one sitting behind her with her huge boyfriend or fiance? Also, I know for sure that it’s a feature that can be disabled easily, and that is something that is highly recommended not just to get around harrassment, but also to prevent intrusion into your phone.

    Idiots will remain idiots, if they don’t have a cell phone to record it one of them will finally buy a small camera to carry around and take pictures of people like that. If they can’t send a girl an annoying message on her cell phone they’ll simply say it to her directly, or throw a paper at her.

  • Nas, a very thought provoking topic. I didn’t really know what Bluetooth was, and now I am irritated and further resovled NOT to get a mobile.

    I have shabaab coming up to me at stoplights taking my photo or my kids, and it is really intrusive.

    I have thought, in vindictive moments, how I would like to take photos of cars license plates and post them on a blog for ‘Worst Driver of the Day”.

  • Faris, but when you make something like this illegal in jordan does it not usually entail a backlash in the sense that will people will do it even more?

    I think however you are on the right track in terms of tracking and what not and im sure its technologically possible. it would be along the same lines of the two digit number you can press here in toronto to have the police automatically trace the last number and deal with the situation.

    An even simplier idea involves regulating mildly. I believe if you tell a Jordanian not to do something then they’ll do it, but if you simply raise the prices they will shy away from it. So the companies should charge for the bluetooth service to be operated, for those wanting to send and for those wanting to recieve, this will decrease the casualties.

    There remains the camera phones and im guessing that even higher prices in the form of taxes will still have people using them

  • Hamzeh, by disabling it you are also disabling your own use of it. Imagine you get prank calls and you turn your phone off.

    Also, yes idiots will be idiots but there are things that increase the level of idiots. This technology was unavailable in Jordan 5 years ago and people back then did not go around throwing papers at girls or snapping pictures with their cameras, at least not to the extent that it happens now. This isnt a case of technology making an old thing “better” but of technology introducing a whole new way of doing things.

    Kinzi, looool @ worst driver of the day. God that is such a good idea for a blog!

  • actually i suffer daily from the disadvantages of these mobiles as iam going to my university… last year when i was at my way to my university one of the guys who was sitting before me tried to take a picture of me pretending that he and his friend were having one for their own but i cought him and turned my face to the window….
    not only this but some stupid guys in the same class room forget about the doctor and try to take pictures for girls and the doctors or they are busy with sending pictures or songs by using the bluetooth software during the lecture…
    i don’t know what to say it is really depressing that people don’t know the right way to use these technologies

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