Why are so many of us addicted to cell phones and BlackBerries and texting and tweeting and just plain being in constant contact and conversation?
Immediately after the news of the death of Michael Jackson thousands of instant messages per second flew through the airwaves.
Actually, a cell phone is all I have experience with – don’t have a BlackBerry and I have never texted or tweeted much less, but I am sure that is just a matter of circumstance in my life and that I easily could, and after all, I do blog.
I first became acquainted with cell phones back when they were car phones and my wife went to work for a cell phone company. We got a car phone as a side benefit.
At the time I was working for a newspaper and believe it or not back in those days I did not yet have a cell phone, almost no one did. And the car I was using did not have a phone, but my wife’s did.
I noticed that when I drove her car (the main family car), I, we, always found a reason to use that phone. You tell people you are on the way, where you are, what was that I was supposed to pick up at the supermarket?
Next we got the actual portable phones, back when they still were as big and heavy as a brick, remember? The bag phones.
After losing my newspaper job in a corporate downsizing and deciding I did not want to start all over again in journalism for the how manyith time? I embarked upon a more-than-decade-long career in truck driving. While I find it hard to believe now, at first the cell phone was just a handy accessory. I did not depend upon it, and in fact, tried not to use it too much because the bills could be expensive, what with all the roaming charges since I was driving coast to coast.
But the novelty of it. I was just beginning in trucking, and I recall calling my wife as I crossed the Pennsylvania-Ohio line, just to tell her I was crossing the Pennsylvania-Ohio line, and of course that I love her.
At that time, that would be back in 1995, we were still calling into dispatch primarily via land line. Most truck stops had land line telephones in the restaurant booths for drivers, as well as banks of them along a wall.
I was team driving at the time and on one occasion my partner and I were looking for a load back home. We were in Massachusetts. Another team from our company was in the same position. I saw one of the drivers headed for the land line phone. I looked at my co-driver and said: “I’m goona beat them”. I dialed up dispatch on my cell phone (even though it cost me roaming charges) and we got the load.
In a relatively short time we all transitioned to personal cell phones. I noticed that land line phones, particularly ones that still were in service, quickly became hard to find. Usually shippers and receivers had phones available to drivers, but they disappeared.
(What did truck drivers do when they broke down before cell phones? The old timers tell me they used to help each other out.)
Another thing that became common was to see drivers holding a cell phone up to their head while driving, instead of the CB mike. Of course I’m still talking about truck drivers, but car drivers also began to be seen holding phones to their heads.
And here’s another cell phone phenomenon. Back in the early days to have a cell phone was a status symbol. It seemed to say, boy you must be important. Even better yet was to be having a cell phone conversation in public. That meant people needed to talk to you!
Once when I was trying to enjoy a lunch at a sandwich shop there was this guy loudly talking on his cell phone. He apparently was some type of foreman at a warehouse. Here he was away from work but barking orders. I got the impression the show he was putting on for everyone was more important than his communication with work.
But now everyone is talking on the phone as they walk or drive along (and I notice that the anti-cell phone talking while driving laws seem to have little effect – people blatantly ignore them). In many cases people have little ear and mouth pieces. They appear to be talking to themselves. You’ve probably done what I did. I thought someone was talking to me and started to talk back only to find the person was holding a cell phone conversation and was annoyed at my interference.
And now people send instant text messages to each other. I guess this phenomenon is popular among everyone, but where I have seen it is with my granddaughter. She always seems to be texting – to whom and why I don’t have a clue. I don’t see her often, but when I do, likely she is texting.
Aside from the social issues of why it seems so necessary to text, all this texting and phoning is dangerous.
There was a terrible commuter train wreck in Los Angeles recently where the train operator was texting (the more recent one in D.C. may have had nothing to do with cell phones, but I wondered). There was a light rail accident in Buffalo where the operator was texting and we all have read many stories of auto accidents where someone was texting rather than keeping his or her eyes on the road.
(In fact I noticed that a teenager had died in an auto accident as the result of inattention due to texting in a story in the Peoria, Ill., newspaper – gave me the idea to blog about this.)
And I just remember something I heard on TV the other day that I believe is true. Some expert was saying no one can really multi-task. We do one thing at a time, we just often find ourselves rapidly changing from one task to another (me not so much these days). I believe that is true. So assuming that it is, that gives us all pause to think when we may have been doing things like talking on the phone and driving a vehicle at the same time (yeah, I’ve done it – many, many times).
So, why are we on the phone all the time? For one thing it’s there. And for another since instant 24-hour darn near anywhere (as long as there’s enough bars) communication is available with such ease it’s become expected that everyone is available all the time in the social and work sense.
Someone I know who has a BlackBerry told me he doesn’t know why, but he checks it in the middle of the night.
And then there is the loneliness factor in what has become such a cold world at times. We’re all so connected and yet many are so lonely.
There also seems to be a lot of insecurity. But if there is someone to text to or someone texting you then maybe that helps or maybe it just feeds the insecurity.
And why do I blog????