Mobile Blamed For Demise Of... Whistling?

Throughout history, new technologies have created new areas of employment while simultaneously putting other people out of work, often providing social and cultural ramifications as well. To give one obvious example among many, the printing press put (most) calligraphers out of work and enabled mass literacy, followed by propaganda and pornography. But here’s one twist I never saw coming: The rise of mobile devices is apparently leading to a decline in good old-fashioned whistling.

That’s according to a report in the (London-based) Sunday Times, which cited cultural historians and surveys suggesting that by providing entertainment on the go, mobile devices (including portable music players), have more or less eliminated the main reason people have whistled: boredom. In one survey by YouGov, 70% of respondents said they hear less whistling than they did two or three decades ago.

Of course it’s not just mobile: the decrease in whistling is also due to the decline of jobs traditionally associated with whistling, like milkmen and errand boys. In one sad piece of anecdotal evidence that probably also reflects generational differences, a longtime milkman noted that he received a warning in 2013 after residents complained about his cheerful whistling (I can just see the yuppies rolling their eyes as they scroll through their feeds).

So it seems whistling may be on its way to join handwritten letters, telegrams, photo albums, and accepting long-distance charges in the long list of practices rendered obsolete by communications technology. But the trend seems a little more significant because the demise of these other activities was simply a case of new technology replacing old, whereas whistling is a basic physical process and skill that we’re apparently losing touch with. (Well, some of us: I can’t whistle, anyway.)

3 comments about "Mobile Blamed For Demise Of... Whistling? ".
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  1. Cece Forrester from tbd, April 14, 2015 at 5:29 p.m.

    Random whistling wasn't a feature, it was a bug. Good riddance.

  2. Walter Sabo from SABO media, April 16, 2015 at 10:51 a.m.


  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 29, 2015 at 6:46 p.m.

    Not only is whistling so greatly annoying to other people, but it hurts people's ears. Whistling, humming other such habits of people seem to be more of a psychological effort to remind them they  still exist. Those sounds do not sound the same to others around than to the people who are doing the sounding. Save it for the shower.

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