Monday, July 18, 2011

Ring, Ring

Ask yourself: “Can I survive 12 hours without my cell phone?” Think about it… What about a day? A week? Five weeks?

Simply put, cell phones have, for many Americans, become integral to our daily functioning. According to CTIA – The Wireless Association, as of December of 2010 American’s have 302,859,674 wireless connections. Given that the population, as of the 2010 census, is 308,745,538, there is about 99/100 of a connection for every person in the USA. A source of security in travel, it has come to the point that many people feel uncomfortable to simply leave home without their cell phone. Not only a telephone, mobiles are multi-purpose computers; they act as game consoles, still/video cameras, e-mail systems, carriers of business and entertainment data, nodes of commerce, and, due to “apps,” seemingly unlimited other uses. This is not even including one of the largest uses of modern cell phones: text messaging. There is an estimated 187.7 billion text messages sent monthly in USA alone.

Let’s go back: “Can I survive 5 weeks without my cell phone?” For this blogger, the answer is yes!

As some background, I have been a Blackberry user for approx. the last three years, and use my phone to keep my life in order. My calendars are packed, my emails are almost primarily handled by smart phone, and my social life is always a text message away. I had every intention of renting a cell phone upon arrival in Bangkok, but I quickly realized that it would not be necessary. One by one, I learned the pros and cons of living in a cell-phone-free community of nine, in a totally different country:

Electronic communication (E-mail, Facebook, etc.): I often find that when I do electronic communication on my cell phone it can be rushed, shorthand, and not as well edited. The solution? Actually using my computer as my only source for text-based communication. As much as I use text-messaging, I find that it is (with exceptions) an inefficient form of communication, and I was happy to not deal with it for the duration of the trip.

Social Life: This was the most obvious difference between having and not having a cell phone. How does one make plans with others? How does one tell others when one is leaving, or arriving, or if something comes up? With only a handful of exceptions, not having a cell phone made everyone much more accountable; we made plans, and everyone made sure to stick to them. There was a situation in which a partner of mine and myself were about to do a presentation, realized (in the first minute of presenting) that we did not have the password for a computer, and the only way to get that password was to walk five minutes in each direction to ask for the password from the owner of the computer. This would have been a wonderful time to have mobile communication, however, another team member offered to make the trek, and everything worked out fine.

Schedule: I failed at this one. I learned very clearly that I need to have a calendar with me at all times if I am to know anything that is going on, any day of the week. Luckily, our schedules were very team-oriented, so I seldom (if ever) had to figure out where and when I was supposed to do something without the company of others.

I am assuming that most of our readers remember a time when cell phones were not in every pocket, or capable of what they are in 2011. What have we lost through the abundance of cell-phones? Is it worth the gains? Why is it that we remember surviving back then, but now it seems like if one lost their cell phone it would seem like the world was ending?


  1. First of all, the nerdy part of me loves that you have actual statistics and citations. Made me very happy. :) But I've wonered for a long time what we've lost through the gains cell phones have brought us. I think we lose much of a QUALITY of interaction as well. For example, I communicate so regularly with some of my friends via texting or Facebook that I forget to just take time to call them like a normal human being or - better yet - take the time to meet them and talk face to face about what they've been doing. It makes some of those relationships lose the depth that I think they used to have.

  2. I definitely agree, there simply is no replacement for being able to read someone's facial expression, to hear what they have to say without the chance to re-type it, and (as a musician one can appreciate) the ability to really hear the pitch of someone's voice when they speak with any form of emotion. I think that there is going to be a return to personal forms of communication sometime in the next few years... but for now, electronics are taking over!

  3. Love your blog Daniel! I agree cell phones have both pros and cons. It's definitely convenient to be able to send a mass test for planning at once, or being able to let someone know you're thinking about them without needing a long conversation, and great for instant communication. However, I also agree that we lose much of the quality of conversations through texting all the time - in my mind I seem to feel like if I've texted someone a lot in a day, that equates to social interaction but then on second though I realize how much better quality our time would be if it had been spent in person instead. Overall I enjoy having a cell phone for convenience, but it makes me more aware of our culture's need to pay more attention to face to face interaction!