Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cell-Phone Culture

Over the course of the last year I have become very aware of what I call our cell-phone culture. Let me preface my commentary by saying that I have nothing against cell phones. I used to have one, and the day may come when I have one again, but currently I do not have one.

After moving into a new house and a new neighborhood last year, I found it hard to contact anyone in my neighborhood. I have been working with the local Boy Scout troop and I had phone numbers for most of the people but whenever I tried to contact people I could never catch them. I also discovered that there were messages being sent to "everybody" that were not coming to me. Given time I was able to diagnose the cause of both those problems. The messages I was not getting were text messages on cell phones - a loop which could not include me since I have no cell. The problem with me trying to contact anyone else was that I had their home phone numbers which were virtually useless since they all rely on their cell phones for people to contact them.

Since that first identification of the influence of cell phones on society I have identified other effects of the cell-phone culture. I see people around me busily doing much more than people did when I was growing up. There are more soccer games (or any other sport), more music lessons, and dance classes. Families are split in more directions as both parents run separate errands and any older children are busy with their own agendas. The members of the family keep each other updated on their whereabouts with calls and messages from their phones without ever having to see each other. This was all driven home to me this weekend when my backyard neighbor was talking to us over the fence. She had her phone with her and while we were talking she got a message from her oldest daughter. The daughter had gone shopping for a prom dress with the stipulation that her mother had to approve anything she wanted to buy. The message was a picture of the prom-dress-of-choice. No need for mom to come along in order to secure her approval. In fact it was not even necessary to take a picture and show it to mom for approval before going back to purchase the dress. She could go shopping and get the required approval while Mom was outside talking to the neighbors.

Not all of this is bad, but I have concluded that if and when I have a cell phone again I will be conscious to avoid cluttering up my schedule just because I can stay in contact while driving myself crazy and back.

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