The Diamondback is supposed to print this, but they haven’t yet, so here’s a sneak preview.
I bet a lot of people on this campus have had that horrible feeling. You know the one I’m talking about. You step into the basement of a building, or maybe the Union, and definitely the Metro. It’s that sinking, creeping feeling that if someone needs to contact you, it’s impossible. You’ve got . . . no cell reception!
In the last ten years, cell phones have seemingly become the oxygen masks for a generation of people who didn’t know they couldn’t breathe. For over three million years of existence (at the very least, ten thousand years of civilization), humans survived and lived quite well without them, but something in the air changed roughly a decade ago, and we had to adapt quickly. Internet technology wasn’t enough-to be in instant communication with the world is only good enough if it’s available every second of every day, wherever you are.
Now, I’m not fundamentally opposed to the cell phone. It certainly has its benefits for emergencies and does generally make life easier for some people. However, I think it’s time to take a look at what cell phones have done to our culture, especially to our generation.
For starters, cell phones have made removed a large degree of intentionality and responsibility from communication. It’s no longer necessary to stop by someone’s dorm to talk to them, or wait for them outside of a class if you need to talk, you can just call them on the way to your next class later on. That doesn’t sound so bad, but I know for me personally, intentional interactions with people make them so much more worthwhile. Knowing that someone took the time to wait for me after a class, or hunt me down in my dorm to talk, regardless of the subject material, makes the conversation much more worthwhile. Furthermore, face-to-face communication makes the parties more responsible for what happens. The absence of distance means that people have to look each other in the eye and are much more responsible for what they say, as well as for remembering what the other person says.
Secondly, cell phones have created a generation of dependents. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard friends lamenting lost cell phones, or just generally remarking that “I couldn’t live without my phone.” Hyperbole or not, this phrase is too true. We’ve been suckered in by the cell phone companies into believing this is the only way to live. Big Brother (or “Mother Culture” if you’ve read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael) tells us that people have always lived this way, that there was never a time when people didn’t need to be constantly available to the whole world. I find it quite sad that I know multiple homeless people that have cell phones but don’t eat food every day. I seriously don’t think that a lot of my friends would know how to communicate well without the use of a cell phone.
New innovations have carried with them the message that everyone must give in to the technology machine. Cell phones are just one aspect of the way we’ve be deceived about the way we’re supposed to live. Those who don’t have cell phones or (heaven forbid) computers with email access are behind the times and just haven’t realized the irresistible force that is technology. But I propose that this is merely the message that Mother Culture teaches us. We live in a consumerist culture that sends the message that we have to have the newest and most fashionable clothes, phones, televisions, video games, and cars or else we won’t survive and I think it’s time for us to fight back. Thoreau says “Simplify, simplify,” and I think that’s the only way. If instead of buying cell phones we all go out and buy Dodge Vipers, then we haven’t defeated anything. The solution to buying everything is to buy less. Simplifying our lives means abiding by the Gandhi’s idea that “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.”
The obvious counter to all of this is “Why?” There doesn’t seem to be any good reason to hate cell phones and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with going right along with technology. It’s good for the economy and it makes life better. Or so we’ve been told. Mother Culture has been so good at cutting out creativity; we’ve been taught that there is only one way to live and we dare not think that there are alternatives to a money-driven, self-gratifying way of being. Why does it have to be this way and no other?
So the next time you’re about to make a call on your Razr phone, maybe turn it off and go talk face-to-face. It certainly can’t hurt, can it?