Recently, there was a discussion in one of my communications classes about how cell phones have become security blankets and have effected our social interactions. I will be the first to admit that when walking across campus, it is easy to avoid small talk or making awkward eye contact with those I pass, by simply pulling out my phone and pretending to be intently focused on a message or e-mail. Rosen states, "These devices are all used as a means to refuse to be 'in' the social space; they are technological cold shoulders that are worse than older forms of subordinate activity in that they impose visually and auditorily on others" (38). We lose sight, literally, of the world around us, as we become so engrossed in our phones and isolated from those physically nearby. If too nervous to confront someone face to face, sending a text message or even talking over the phone are alternatives that simply feel more comfortable. People develop a certain confidence when communicating through a message that they may not possess in person. This technology is limiting human interaction, acting as a replacement, and inhibiting our abilities to bite the bullet and handle an uncomfortable or awkward situation.
Yet while the cell phone clearly causes isolation, the advancements that have been made allow users to also be more connected than ever in terms of current events and other information found locally and around the world. When our grandparents were growing up, a person had to wait until the news was broadcast on television or radio or the next paper was printed in order to gather the latest reports. Now at anytime and from anywhere, one can whip out their phone and get an update on anything from directions, or the score of a particular sporting event, to the weather forecast for the upcoming weekend. One can watch a video someone has taken of a natural disaster or crime from thousands of miles away, just seconds after it has occurred. Impactful visuals that elicit great emotion and answers to almost any question are right at our fingertips. This instant accessibility further endorses the idea that everything in our society needs to be fast-paced and highly efficient. People become agitated and lose the critical skill of patience when they cannot find what they want or need immediately.
Just as the cell phone makes information accessible at all hours, it makes people available in the same way. A couple weeks ago, my Mom interviewed for a new job and the interviewer asked her if she owned a smart phone and if not, whether she would be willing to purchase one for this new position. The cell phone creates a constant connection to one's professional life. There is no longer a clear distinction between work and home. As these two facets of life become more intertwined, people lose the ability to find quality, meaningful time with friends and loved ones. Even when out to a nice dinner with a significant other, or snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie with the kids, one is engaged in other conversations, e-mails, and updates occurring through their phone. Rosen noted that sociologists Amit Schejter and Akiba Cohen found "there were no less than ten cell phone interruptions during a recent staging of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' at Israel's National Theater" (35). Your cell number is a portal into your personal life and when acquired by a business, employer, or any other individual, the traditional boundaries of public and private are broken.
While I could ramble on about the pros and cons of the cell phone, at the end of the day it is something I truly feel I could not live without; it is a love-hate relationship. I think it is important to begin to step back and personally assess how we can revise some of our habits in order to restore more traditional interactions that have been important in many years past. Just because a new technology is presented, it does not mean we must dive into it right away and abandon "the old way." Like everything else in life, it is about finding a balance and living in the grey area. A constant connection to our phones should not disconnect us from our actual daily lives!