Mobile parallel universes: The psychological meaning of Mobile to the younger generation

mobile parallel universes.JPG

I wrote this partly out of fun .. I was trying to show the deeper meaning of mobile to young people .. using an analogy of parallel universes

It brings a lot of my personality into the post(Quantum mechanics, Comics, Archeology etc).

comments welcome ..

Quantum mechanics tells us of the fascinating possibility of parallel universes . While these parallel universes may appear to be in the realm of science fiction, many young people who use mobile devices already inhabit such universes in their own mind.

To them, these universes are real and significant since these universes revolve around themselves (they are the stars)

It is easy to think of pictures taken from mobile devices as static images, but to their creators, they are much more because they have a unique meaning. The images also have a special meaning in context of their community (the parallel universe) they inhabit

The psychosocial impact of Mobile devices is an emerging topic. (i.e. one’s psychological development in an interaction with a social environment)

In the paper Mobile Identity: Youth, Identity, and Mobile Communication Media Gitte(pdf) quotes a young girl (age sixteen) who says: Parents usually don’t know how important a tool the mobile has become in young people’s lives. They only think about the communicative function, not the social meaning. They then explore the psychological meaning of mobile devices to young people in greater detail. A mobile device has two functions: communication and also a social element. Since the young person’s Identity is tied to the mobile device, it becomes fluid – both in the physical sense (mobility) but also in the social sense (going in and out of communities). Besides mobility, the mobile device also has Availability, presence, the ability to document experiences and acts as a learning tool (since it acts as a reference point and a filter through the friends in their social network)

This means, young people inhabit a world of constant visual and textual streams which become a part of their identity (i.e. they are often afraid to ‘miss something’ significant in their world). The captured image is proof that ‘I was there’. It need not be ‘special occasions’, rather it is more about ‘what goes on in their mind at that time’. When shared, it is a part of an emerging collective consciousness their own parallel universe. They invest time in capturing the moment since it is a part of their own Identity(what’s on their mind) and consequently they are keen to ensure that it is a part of their collective consciousness i.e. received/shared/communicated to their own group(of which they are the star)

When I read this for the first time, it sounded like an alien world. But is it?

Children has always lived in their own worlds .. A space of their own .. Away from every one else which they create. As a child, I used to read comic books extensively(especially Disney, Hanna Barbara, Tintin, Asterix etc) which I still do! It is a unique world that has meaning only to me ..

We see the same phenomenon today .. But through an interactive mobile medium. The mobile device has become a social artefact i.e. an object made or modified by a human being.

Ancient human beings made rock paintings in caves which depicted their world ..

Through their mobile images, the young inhabit their own private world .. Which revolves around them.

Their own (mobile) parallel universe!

PS: If you are interested in parallel universes, see this BBC link on parallel universes and the work of Michio Kaku whose site is HERE

I first got interested in this topic after reading Hyperspace a few years ago and

Parallel worlds is also good and more recent

Image source:


  1. Keith Soifer says:

    As a mobilist, I am as strong an advocate for mobility as the next person.
    That said,I am truly concerned about the effect that mobile usage is having on the general population, and youth, specifically, regarding basic aptitude skills such as writing, reading, and the ability to think analytically and critically.