I SHOULD have realised that sitting next to a group of teenagers while watching Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the entertaining Harry Potter offshoot, probably wasn’t a great idea.

The throwing of popcorn was mildly irritating. So were the bursts of chatter well after the lights had gone down. But what really got to me, what had me glaring at these young people with my best “outraged of Strathbungo” death stare, were the extended periods of texting that created the sort of light many Glaswegians could probably get a suntan off.

When I looked around I could see similar little halos all around the auditorium - not all being created by teenagers, I should point out – meaning that among this audience it had clearly become socially acceptable to twiddle with one’s phone while the film was on. I was at a city centre multiplex, of course, seeing the sort of blockbuster film that appeals to giggly teenagers. But over the last year or two I’ve noticed similar behaviour at arthouse cinemas and in the theatre, too.

At that very moment of looking round I experienced a realisation: individualism, lack of consideration for others, no, actually, plain selfishness, has reached into areas of our lives I never thought possible, including the simple enjoyment of a film. My internal wailing system went on repeat: the end of civilisation is nigh.

Many of you must feel my pain, surely? After all, there really is nothing more off-putting when you are watching a film, play or performance of any sort, when you are actively trying to escape the stress of everyday life, to put yourself into a different reality through art, than the person in the neighbouring seat breaking that spell by twiddling with their phone.

My mind immediately went back to Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who was last year criticised in some sections of the media for having a “lovey hissy fit” during his run as Hamlet at the Barbican in London after telling fans in no uncertain terms not to film his performance. I’m with Ben on this one. If the light of a smartphone made me lose concentration during a simple fantasy story, imagine what it does to you while you are trying to imbibe some of Shakespeare’s greatest soliloquies with meaning?

In many ways all this makes the latest news from software giant Apple, that their iPhone software update due tomorrow will contain a “theatre mode” setting, intriguing and prescient indeed. Rumoured to be switched on and off via a popcorn-shaped icon, according to technology insiders the change will disable system sounds, block some notifications and reduce screen brightness during a film.

My initial thoughts when considering the thinking behind this update were - surprise surprise - not positive. Surely, I told myself, the very existence of a specific cinema-mode setting will simply encourage more folk to use their phones while watching a film or seeing a play, as they tell themselves that Apple, perhaps the ultimate arbiter of behaviour and taste, and thus by extension society, deems such behaviour acceptable.

This in turn, I reasoned, will have dire consequences for our creativity as a society. Why? Because being unable to focus on a piece of art for any length of time, being unable to truly lose yourself, ultimately waters down its potency. And that means our individual and collective imaginations will not be fired and inspired in the same way, that we perhaps won’t be as driven or compelled to formulate our own ideas and create our own art off the back of what we see in auditoriums. Grim.

Then I went to the cinema again last night and I started to think differently. Maybe this new setting is a good thing. Perhaps it will mean people who feel they can’t currently go to the cinema or theatre because of the 24/7hour nature of their responsibilities – I’m thinking carers, new mothers, doctors and nurses on call – will allow themselves a bit of much-needed rest and recuperation by going to the movies. Few of us would surely begrudge them that.

Perhaps by demanding absolute silence and darkness in a theatre I am simply being selfish and old-fashioned? Maybe I need to just accept that in the modern world people will look at their phones while they are consuming art - after all, they do it while they are doing just about everything else you could think of. And, if that means they don’t get the all-encompassing experience of the pre-digital world, then so be it. Maybe our brains are re-wiring to compensate?

And, if people are going to look at their phones (and they clearly are), then if Apple makes it a bit less distracting for the rest of us, shouldn’t we simply be thankful? I suppose so - maybe the end of civilisation isn’t nigh after all.