Cell Phones: A Rude Awakening
Article ID: 14021
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Nathaniel Jeffers
Posted: June 27th. 2010
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The modern age has introduced a wide array of colorful new media vices and technological breakthroughs. We live in a high-paced world of instant gratification where everything we could ever want or need is simply a mouse-click away. Perhaps among the most influential aspects of the 1990’s was the widespread affordability of cell-phones. It seems as though everyone now owns these devices, which prior to the 90’s were available only to the wealthy and privileged classes of high society. As cellular devices have become cheaper and smaller and crammed with everything from mini-computers and planners or organizers to cameras and mp3 players, it seems as though they have permeated every aspect of our daily lives.
This atmosphere of immediate gratification is not without its shortcomings however. Just as with everything else, something has to be sacrificed. I would argue that perhaps we are sacrificing a part of ourselves in the mad rat race. The need to be wired to virtual reality has in many ways deadened our connection to actual reality, to each other and to the part of ourselves that delights in the little things. I am by no means the first to raise these concerns and I will explore other sources that have explored this in more detail throughout the course of this essay. I will explore the benefits in addition to the negative ramifications of mobile devices from a social perspective.
In an article titled Our Cell Phones, Ourselves, senior editor of The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen examines how cell phones have impacted our cultural landscape and social atmosphere and she attempts to investigate our cultural connection to mobile devices. According to Rosen, the number of cellular subscribers in the United States has jumped from 340, 000 subscribers in 1985 to more than 158, 000, 000 in 2003. Rosen suggests new ways of dealing with the social problems that arise from cellular device usage.
As someone who has worked in retail for a number of years, I assure you that it can be extremely frustrating when someone is at a cash register demanding service but is so busy talking on the phone that they will not even address the instructions you give them in operating the credit card machine. This is especially troublesome when you have a long line of customers who are in as much of a hurry to get out the door, as you are to get them out the door. The customer fumbles with the buttons and fails to acknowledge the prompt to okay the final total on the screen. Angrily, the other customers grumble about being late clocking in from their lunch hour.
As a society, we are new to all this. We are left in a position where we must draw new lines in the sand and new boundaries must be established in polite company. When is it okay to text? When is it not? What is the proper time and place to put your cellular phone on vibrate? These are all new questions that need to be addressed. She cites sociologist Erving Goffman in saying that when placed in social situations where one must interact, that there is a certain obligation for the guest to interact on a social basis effectively. When other behaviors remove them from the social role, they effectively send the message to the other guests that they are unnecessary in their world and thus, to some extent, less than a person.
Goffman’s observations and analyses may be crucial in the development of a new plan to address concerns over the boorish bad etiquette of the inconsiderate cell phone user. From the apparent madman who appears as though he were a schizophrenic as he jabbers endlessly into his hands-free device, to the businessman loudly proclaiming his self-importance over his earpiece, we certainly have a lot of potential solutions that need worked out. . Rosen suggests that we treat cell phone usage in much the same way as we addressed the conflict between smokers and non-smokers. With civility as the stakes, Rosen states and concludes “It would be a terrible irony if being connected required or encouraged disconnection from community life.” (Rosen, 2004) .
Just as we have established that our social landscape is changing, I wanted to see how obvious this changing environment was from another perspective. In order to gather a diversity of opinion, I sought to interview people who had a solid background in approaching these kinds of issues. Perhaps not surprisingly, the responses I got from those interviewed very much reflect my thesis that a part of us has died.
Melissa Wise was my first interviewee. Melissa is a former nursing student at Hocking College and a current psychology student at the University of Phoenix. Melissa expressed a strong agreement with my initial thesis saying, “Technology allows us to lose personal intimacy and interaction.” Wise states that “many people are naturally introverted and that technological communication has allowed these people to make connections, while avoiding the anxiety associated with interpersonal involvement” She further claims that the vast majority of people in society are lazy and that it is these people who form the basis for claims that intimacy has been lost. Wise did not feel that people have necessarily become ruder but rather contends that body language and social protocols have become lost in translation.
I was also able to interview Corrynne Blevins, who is also a psychology major at the University of Phoenix. Blevins did not take as firm of a stand one way or the other but she says that she feels that the vast majority of people lack the maturity to balance their virtual lives with their real lives and as such, one or the other tends to consume them entirely. She argues that a select few maintain enough maturity to juggle the two. “They can still interact with people on a one-on-one basis and on a group basis, while still recognizing social cues.” (Blevins, 2010)
Blevins maintains however, that “due to the usage of computers, cell phones and other interactive technologies, people often no longer feel the need or wish to interact with people on a more personal level. Because of this, they do not often feel the need to learn the proper etiquette for dealing with other.” It’s as if we become so used to being able to merely click the “ignore” button that the same principle applies in our daily interactions with our peers.
With that, Blevins gives a powerful closing statement that I feel reinforces my presumption that a part of us has indeed died. We are less connected to actual reality. We are more connected to virtual reality and as a result, our skills of interpersonal communication have greatly suffered. “We now live in a throw-away society. You don’t have to get along to move along, so we shut down and we choose not to.” (Blevins, 2010) .
Blevins, Corrynne N., and Melissa Wise. Personal interview. 2 May 2010.
Rosen, Christine. "Our Cell Phones, Ourselves." Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture. By Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Fifth ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. 351-71. Print.
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