Recently, I have become aware of a serious societal problem that knows no boundaries. It is a problem that surpasses the constraints of racial, cultural, societal, and even geographical rules. And the problem that is quickly becoming a world wide epidemic is the cell phone- or keitai, hand phone, or mobile depending on your country of origin. The real issue lies not with the cell phone itself, but people’s reactions to it.
Do you remember the first cell phones? I have a vivid image of Saved by the Bell actually. Zack Morris, being the cool guy that he was, of course got his hands on this new technology somewhere in later seasons. And even though his phone was huge, he kept it in his back pocket, always prepared for any emergency situation that came up. And that was exactly the purpose of the first cell phones. They were for emergency calls.
In high school, I got my first cell phone. It was my grandpa’s actually, and why my grandpa was so tech savvy, I still can’t comprehend, but I had it on loan-out during basketball season. Like Zack’s phone, it was big and bulky. It had a phone book and the ability to make and receive calls, and that was where the technology ended. I only had permission to use my phone to call my parents during away games, when the bus was about twenty minutes from the school. That way my parents could be ready to pick me up and I didn’t have to wait in the dark parking lot in the middle of winter, freezing in my cheerleading outfit. I remember that those calls were so rushed. The goal was to keep the call under a minute so that I wouldn’t waste any of the precious minutes on our plan. And once I got my license and my own car, I kept the phone around just in case my car ever broke down while I was roaming around the countryside during my overly active high school days.
At the time, the phone was so cool, but once I realized that it could only make calls in emergency situations, it just became a dead weight at the bottom of my gym bag. I often lost track of it, or left it at home charging for days on end.
Once I went away to college, one of my first big adult moves was to get my very own cell phone. I felt very cool with this phone because it had a color screen. Other than the color screen, there was not so much to do with the phone- no camera, texting cost about a million dollars, and internet access wasn’t even a dream. I carried my phone around all the time, mostly because it made me feel very cool and adult-like. But if I forgot it in the dorm, then no worries.
But slowly, as the years went on, and especially after I moved to Japan, cell phone technology kept advancing by leaps and bounds. My current cell phone has a camera, a video camera, internet access, a bar code reader, a dictionary, an mp3 player, an ebook viewer, and a pedometer…just to name a few. And I don’t even have an iPhone. When it comes down to it, almost everything a person could ever need is now included in basic cell phone functions.
But, having a wide variety of functions is not actually the inherent problem with today’s cell phones. The problem is the power that people have given their phones. And there are two kinds of power: communication and organization.
Have you ever noticed that cell phones take top priority in our lives? Don‘t try to argue with me about this. You are simply in denial about the truth of the situation. Think back to the last month. I am willing to bet that at least once you have answered a call or a text while in the middle of a conversation with a real life person. And even if you took the higher road by not answering or responding, you definitely know who called or texted you because you checked the caller ID. Or maybe you panicked because, horror of all horrors, you left your phone at home. Do you stress out all day and worry that people won‘t be able to get a hold of you? I always rush home and immediately check my phone for all the calls and messages I must have missed. Yeah, more often than not, it adds up to a whopping zero. I am definitely not as popular as I like to believe that I am.
With all of the cool and convenient functions on cell phones nowadays, people are becoming more and more dependent on their phones. I know that in my own life, my cell phone has become an irreplaceable commodity. I seriously believe that I could not function properly without it. I don’t even bother memorizing people‘s phone numbers anymore, and actually I never see most people‘s numbers because I can just exchange info via infared. I have absolutely no idea what any of the important people in my life’s numbers are. The only numbers I still remember are the ones I memorized when I was a kid and actually had to dial numbers to get a hold of my family and friends. There are a ton of pictures on my phone, great pictures from vacations that are only located on my phone. The calendar function keeps track of schedule. I would probably die if I ever dropped my phone in the toilet. My whole life would go down the drain in addition to my phone.
So, my new goal, hopeless though it may be, is to detach myself from my cell phone. I am going to start memorizing numbers and writing appointments in a planner. I will no longer sacrifice real life interactions with people for the sake of my ringing phone. I hope that those of you reading are not as sadly addicted to your phones as I am, but if you are maybe we could join Cell Phones Anonymous together.