They say if we had to choose between our cars and our cell phones we would pick our cells. Such is the value we attach to our connectedness — now mostly a collective addiction. Even the thought of facing the reality of isolation without this electronic security sidekick has become abhorrent to many because of its kinship with incarceration. Are you one who can't enjoy your solitude without a phone within reach? Most likely you are part of a worldwide community grown from 87% adult users to over 6 billion and reaching all the way down to the bottom of the economic pyramid. For various reasons, only 64% of those over 65 use a cell phone while 69% of all users report they have lost their devices.
I have been debating whether or not to sign up for a cell phone, and I thought that researching the topic might help me make sense of it. Since I decided to give up my car (a decision involving excessive repair costs), my rationale is that it might be handy to have a phone when out and about. Observing many mall shoppers using their phone devices I noticed one husband standing slightly away from two women attentive to their baby in its stroller. The man paced around quite involved in a phone conversation oblivious to the enjoyment the women were having with the child. Then I noticed something unusual. When he ended the call, the whole group immediately left the area. The husband's phone call determined the duration of the women's enjoyment with the child. Did his phone business dominate his family life? Probably in this instance, it did.
Here are a few thoughts that surfaced around what motivates people to use their mobile phones:
- That man tripped and fell. Let him lie there while I call emergency.
- I can't sit here and do nothing.
- I'm lonely and need to talk to someone.
- It feels safer to share my story this way.
- I want to make a quick business deal.
- I want to meet someone new.
- That man is looking at me.
- I need my apps.
- I want to be cool and surf in public.
- What is the next thing I must do?
- Where am I? I lost my directions.
- I need to interrupt my present conversation.
- All the information I need is on the internet. Sorry. What was your name?
- I'm such a winner on my new cell phone!
When business is fast and competitive, it makes sense to have rapid information exchange using a mobile phone when away from home or office or a pay phone (now pretty well extinct). Many entrepreneurs abandon their offices and save money using their devices in public places instead. This trend potentially has its consequences.
Talk is plenty about the privacy and safety of cellular phones. Steve Jobs once said that we should keep our calls brief. Authorities collect location data from cell phones whether they are on or off, using a technique known as multilateration. With this method, a service provider can track a mobile phone's SIM card and handset movements if requested by law enforcement agencies and governments. You might be asking, how anonymous do you want to be.
In regards to safety, I read that the increase in brain cancers has not paralleled the growth in mobile phone use. However, I see real safety issues with teenagers and adults distracted in the street or public places looking downward with their ears covered by the phone. According to recent Ontario Provincial Police statistics, 50% of all collisions in Ontario involved distracted driving such as texting or emailing behind the wheel. Studies show that hand-held devices such as GPS systems, CD, DVD, radios, laptops, PDA's and MP3 players, although not illegal, are just as distracting as cell phones.
The last argument is disturbing. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has been a significant supplier of natural resources used in the cell phone industry. Young boys living in dire poverty extract the Tin oxide from deep inside unsafe mines. The government exports the product, and the money received pays for arms and ammunition to prolong a 20-year civil war. The slaughter of almost 5.5 million soldiers and civilians is the consequence of this insanity. A documentary by Frank Poulsen: Blood in the Mobile validates these deplorable conditions in DR Congo. Presently, there is no guarantee that my phone purchase would be “conflict-free”.
I try to imagine the repercussions of stuffing my $400.00 phone into my back pocket and forgetting about it or bringing it out to interrupt a conversation over a meal. Is wanting a measure of control over one's personal space so unordinary? I leave my cell at home and pick up messages when I return. Other than the fact that it's convenient that this site is mobile friendly, and while in emergencies cell phones have saved lives, I think they are overrated and sadly, inhibit social and human intimacy. As a pure convenience and something else to lose who gets their kicks elsewhere?©
Image: Fairview Mall St. Catharines used with permission