MPF Observation Series – Communication in the Modern Age – Our Cell Phones

Our Cell Phones,Mission Positive films, MPF, Heather M Spencer

Our Cell Phones – A Love Affair

The cell phone is truly one of the most significant developments in modern times. It has become a friend, an assistant, a personal researcher, a playmate, a pet, a camera, a media hub, and our main source of communication. We have become so attached to this little piece of electronics that a survey done almost 4 years ago, showed that 84% of us couldn’t go a day without their phone, and this was more than just Americans. In fact, there are many parts of the world where more people have access to mobile devices than to toilets, or running water.  Can you imagine what that survey number would be today ? We’ve come a long way from the the old landline phone or corner payphone, that’s sole purpose was to allow us to talk to someone from a distance.

Personally, I’ve had a love, hate, love relationship with my phones. The first one was in the late 80’s, when they were about the size of a small child, and had about 30 minutes per charge, but it sure beat running around trying to find a payphone a dozen times a day. As the technology got better, our business got crazier, and I was chained to my desk about 12 hours a day, with a phone in each ear, and an office full of people waiting to see me. The last thing I wanted at that point was to be reachable outside the office, so I flat out refused to carry a phone until we sold the company. The first phone I got after that, was basically, just that, a phone, nothing to write home about, but handy. Then I saw the light, bought a smart phone, fell in love, and since then, have spent entirely too much time looking at that ” big ” little screen.

Though our cell phones are making it much easier to stay connected and manage our day to day routine, they are rapidly changing the way we relate socially. How many times have you been at a restaurant and looked around to see how many people have their heads buried in their phones ? And it’s not just friends, it’s couples, and families, and even folks that are obviously on a date. Everyone at the table consumed with whatever they are reading or watching or listening to, and it doesn’t stop when the meal comes, then it becomes a matter of giving the food just enough attention that it ends up in their mouth instead of their laps, without skipping a beat on the phone.

With our cell phones, came texting, which I have to say, has some definite advantages. At 3am when you’re wide awake with nothing much to do, you can text someone, even though you’d never consider calling them at that hour. If you just want to quickly give or get a small piece of information, there’s nothing better, but as with most things, we are taking it to the extreme. One out of three people would prefer texting to talking. We are becoming a race of super thumbs, able to type 120 abbreviated words a minute. Look ma, no fingers. This has issues on many levels, not the least of which is our young people developing a diminished capacity for grammar, sentence structure, and basic one on one communication skills. More importantly though, without the experience of hearing someone’s tone, mood, or intensity, and the sharing of thoughts, ideas, and desires that come with verbal communication, we lose a very important aspect of human relations. We lose a portion of our ability to understand, to empathize, and to sympathize. We need to hear the emotion in order to truly understand the need, written words will always fall short. That though may be one of the big reasons that texting has become such a factor in our lives, it’s so much safer than any other means of communicating. If we’ve forgotten something, missed something, or done something wrong, we don’t have to hear the disappointment or anger on the other end. This allows us to choose how we get news. If it’s something that will benefit us, or make us happy, we most likely will want to talk about it. If it’s something that may be negative, we can create a buffer and avoid talking altogether, but unfortunately we then are less prepared when we find ourselves in those ” can’t get out of by texting ” situations.

Something that came as a surprise was how addictive our cell phones have become. They seem to be our virtual lifeline to friends, family, and all the things that interest and excite us. That 2012 survey showed that 1 in 4 people check their phones every 30 minutes, and 1 in 5, check it every ten minutes. You can see that every time you are in a public place; in lines, on the street, in cars, in meetings, very few of us do not have a phone either in their hand or against their ear. Employers cite our cell phones as the number 1 productivity killer in business. That’s a huge statement, but I doubt anyone would question it’s validity.  I find myself putting restraints on how often I pick up my phone. I tell myself, I’m only going to check things first thing in the morning, around lunch, and before bed. But sure enough, I find myself sneaking a peek so many times during the day, I quit counting, and then I say “OK, tomorrow, I’ll only check my phone … ”

My husband is one of the few non converts left, and though he owns a watch phone ( AKA James Bond stuff ), it’s off way more than on, and it’s on only when the situation requires it. He won’t text because he enjoys that human to human contact, he wants to hear the feelings in the voice on the other end of the phone, and his viewpoint helps neutralize my cell phone addiction tendency, but he is also missing out on the benefits that come with today’s technology. So somewhere there is middle ground. A place where we can take advantage of our quickly evolving electronic world and all the benefits that come with it, without compromising our relationships, or our humanity.

Technology will continue to move forward at lightning speed, and our gadgets will continue to make a large portion of our lives much better, but there is no way though our society can change quickly enough to adapt to the new world we’re creating. We have to help each other find that balance. The young have a much better understanding of the computer world, and the elders have a much better understanding of the human world. If we work together, hopefully, we can find the sweet spot in the middle.

Something to think about.

Heather M Spencer

Mission Positive Films

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