I used to hate the cell phones in my classroom, to the point that one day I was so frustrated with one student who compulsively could not control himself I had to politely tell him to, and I quote, “Put your FUCKING cell away!!!” Wait, it was worse than that, “!!!!!”
The class sat scared and silent. I scared me; though did not remain silent.
In the UK, it is called a mobile, in Latin America “cellular,” in Japan “keitai” (portable), in China “shou-ji” (hand machine), in Bangladesh “muthophone” (phone in the palm of your hand), in Sweden “nalle” (teddy bear), in Israel “Pelephone” (wonder phone) and in Germany a “handy.”
I just call it the “self-phone.” What was originally a device designed to connect us instantaneously and globally has, in many ways, alienated us personally as it turns us inward.
Is the self-phone creating one of the most anti-social generations in history?
What began as an Alexander Graham Bell invention to instill convenience into the communication of our daily lives, has, essentially, BECOME our daily lives. It is now like an additional human appendage that we cannot leave home without. Like so many other areas in our lives, it is just another example of the proverbial tail wagging the dog.
Sort of reminds me of those that hastily pursue money for a living; after a while money is no longer money –you know, the green stuff you need to buy things to live- life becomes a game of acquisition. If life is the dog and money is the tail we wag, for many money has become the dog as it wags its tail and we flail uncontrollably and in deference to it.
Philosopher Lewis Mumford made an analytical observation of another technology, the clock. Yes, that ticking thing on the wall. What was originally invented in order to better serve humanity, now has humanity serving it. The clock made us into time keepers and then time savers and, now, time servers. The tails keeps on a waggin that dog of ours.
Take sports. What was introduced to better accommodate the game, television, has only evolved in better accommodating itself. Professional basketball now has television timeouts and interviews with coaches DURING THE GAME. It is hardly now a game; it is a talk show with big athletic people moving around between commercials.
The game of football was invented so people could either participate in an athletic event or observe. When the first professional football game was televised October 22, 1939 it was to benefit the sport and get it publicized, yet it was still all about the game. According to the Pro Football hall of Fame there were none of the visual aids -monitors, screens or spotters – used today, and there were just two iconoscope cameras. One was located in the box seats on the 40-yard line and the other was in the stadium’s mezzanine section. The game was unimpeded as the camera captured the event.
Now the tail wags the dog. Having recently attended a professional football game I felt like I was at a soundstage in the backlot of Universal Studios as it was all about the TV viewers. I cannot tell you how many minutes the players had to just stand on the field and wait until the commercials were over. I was now watching not a sport, but a television show. The head referee is now primarily the director. I could have sworn I heard him yell, “CUT!” at one point.
To put it bluntly, in many ways, technological advances cause us to turn things ass backwards. The tail wags the dog and the medium has become the message.
Back to the self-phone. It is as if we now disregard those who are in our immediate proximity and prefer to dialogue with those outside of our immediate proximity, in cyber space. We are choosing the virtual conversations over the real and present ones. What then is our reality -our physical being or our virtual being?
If I hear another self-phone conversation between the person immediately next to me and their virtual preference I will have heard another one too many. The formal term for this occurrence is a “halfalogue” and research has shown this is the most disruptive and annoying of all potential communication disturbances -as we can only hear half a conversation and, as a result, our brains go crazy trying to instinctively create the other half.
Though, hey, I guess we evolve and adapt. I suppose one day the social norm will be a crowded room with no individuals speaking to each other physically as we engage in our individual cyber universes. Our brains will adapt to hearing a continual barrage of one way conversations.
Though until that point, in public, could you all please put your FUCKING self-phones away? Thanks.