Modern Technology: A Blessing and a Curse
Today, I am a hero. It is not because I uncovered the cure to cancer or due to the fact that I single-handedly solved the dilemmas of world hunger, AIDS and poverty during my lunch hour. Yet, from my quadmate’s viewpoint, I might as well be decked out in spandex and a cape because I discovered her missing cell phone.
In this age of multi-tasking, where society deems it not just fashionable but also a necessity to walk around with a cell phone against one’s ear, a Palm Pilot held in one hand and an iPod grasped in the other, I admit that I, too, have felt the conglomeration of immense fear, loneliness and uncertainty that builds up in the pit of one’s stomach.
It normally happens when my hot pink Motorola RAZR ‘hides’ somewhere in the massive heap of clothes at the foot of my bed, usually when I’m late and, usually, when I’m only half-awake. Should anyone ever happen to watch me run around in pajamas, checking underneath Pop-Tart wrappers and behind dirty laundry strewn about the room, they would laugh hysterically at my frazzled state. I would giggle at myself, if only I could get past my minor cell phone addiction.
Perhaps cell phones are so addicting because they provide a key to the outside world – and when located in a place like Oberlin where (without a car) the outside world is only a few miles of campus and small town, connectivity beyond the ‘bubble’ becomes increasingly irresistible.
With a roughly 1 x 3’’ slab of non-recyclable metal, friends now can be at one’s fingertips. People are able to share pictures and stories as if their acquaintances across the country are right there with them (or, in more extreme cases, living vicariously through them). They are even the key ingredient to finding out gossip and news from back home and making plans to visit friends in the future.
The habit of perpetual cell phone use may also be fueled by the desire for convenience and quickness. Think of it as a social version of the McDonald’s drive through window. Everything’s right there, from the ability to share pictures, videos and, in some cases, listen to music (by far my favorite feature of my phone — how else would I secretly rock out to Nightmare of You while studying at 1 a.m.?) to the instant gratification of being able to tell someone NOW what you want NOW.
For example, there is no need to wait to return to Oberlin from Cleveland to order pizza when one can do so during the car ride back. With only the minor hassle of a five-minute call, the warm, cheesy goodness of it all can be ready to eat as one arrives back at the dorms. People also no longer have to walk across campus to find out if their work-study shift still begins at 3 p.m. when they can call to ask from the comfort of their beds.
And don’t even get me started on the address book feature. Gone are the days of memorization and space-wasting post-it notes that marked friend’s contact information. Need to find the second cell phone number for a long lost cousin in Uzbekistan? It’s all right there, only a few button pushes away.
Many are also finding themselves glued to texting. They do it in classrooms, in bathrooms (I really don’t understand why, or need to know if you happen to be one of these types) and even while driving. There is an adrenaline rush involved with texting when one’s attention should be elsewhere – say, on the road or on a professor’s lecture – that keeps individuals coming back for more.
Yet, in the quest to maintain connection via a quick and convenient tool, we have become more isolated. People have forgotten how to speak face-to-face, and utilize their gadgets as a way to avoid awkward hellos that inevitably come up on a trek to and from class. In some cases, people choose to rely on texting to completely side-step daily dialogue. The loss of invaluable family and friend contacts that ultimately occur when a cell phone is misplaced, broken or stolen enables the aforementioned, ominous cloud of fear, uncertainty and stress to reappear. It also provokes those annoying Facebook groups that read “I need your numbers…for the third time…because my purse got stolen and my phone was in it” to plague whole webpages once reserved for socialization. These truths prove that the relationships we ask cell phones to foster and the expediency that we hope they achieve sometimes backfire. And when used to the extreme, they can cause us to miss out on what really matters: the life happening right in front of our faces.