On The Border
I was driving home from a long day, when I heard my phone ring. On the line my friend said, “Meet us at On the Border in thirty minutes?” I hesitantly agreed. Upon arriving at the restaurant, I pulled out my cellphone to text my parents that I was safely there. Then I called my friend to avoid the awkwardness of walking into a restaurant later than the rest of the group, and she directed me to the table. After I had been there awhile, I looked up mid-sip of my Coke and noticed that I was not only just hanging out with my friends, but with their cellphones too. Every single one of us had our phones sitting in front of us on the table. Even though we were surrounded with many of our closest friends, there was still the need to be texting someone and by doing so staying out of the present moment. I have seen the effects of the cellphone on my friends and I, and it is negatively impacting our social lives by changing the way we communicate, make plans, and by making us available to everyone all the time.
Since we have our cellphones with us all the time, there is no need to make plans in advance. Just like when my friends called me up to come to dinner at the last minute, most teens make plans like this. It is convenient, but also harmful, because having a schedule for the day makes it less stressful and more organized. Cellphones “increase flexibility and the ‘softening’ of schedules” which allows for plans to be easily rearranged (Bittman). This is causing stress because it allows for a level of uncertainty. Some people cannot even turn their cellphone off because they fear that they are going to miss something (“The Social Impact of Mobile Telephony”). Teens are living their social lives moment to moment and have to be available to their friends all the time in order to make plans with them. Knowing that all of your friends will have their cellphones on them “allows for a type of anytime-anywhere-for-whatever-reason type of access to” them (Ling 85). This access is dangerous because it does not allow for any personal time in a teenager’s schedule. Adam Waytz, who works in the Harvard psychology department, found that spending time alone increases a person’s empathy towards their friends, which enhances their social lives (Neyfakh).
Teens use “texting to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable situations” (Ludden). I noticed I was doing this when I was walking into the restaurant. Instead of asking the hostess where the huge group of teenagers was, I chose to make myself more comfortable and just call my friends to ask where they were. This might not seem like a harmful thing at first, but it takes away from the social skill of being able to get out of the comfort zone we live in with our cellphones. On my college campus, I have noticed that instead of people trying to make conversations with the people around them, they resort to using their cellphone as a safety net to avoid any awkward situation. This could prevent someone from making a useful friend connection. It used to be considered rude to talk on the phone in public because it is a way of isolation, but now it is socially acceptable.
Social etiquette has changed along with the development of cellphones. It has become “normal” for cellphones to ring during important ceremonies. It has also become socially acceptable for people to be texting while out with others. When people hear their cellphone ring, it is fulfilling their need to feel wanted. Thus, it is making the brain register that whatever is happening on the cellphone is more important and urgent than the human being that is in front of them (“The Social Impact of Mobile Telephony”). In my experience, when someone is having a texting conversation while I am with them it makes me feel that I am not important enough to deserve their full attention. David E. Meyer, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, confirms this by saying that “a prolonged jag of extreme multi-tasking may lead to shorter attention spans” (Healy). When teenagers are socially multi-tasking, on the phone and in person, they are distracted from being able to give either friend their full attention.
While researching the negative effects of cellphone addiction, it made me reflect on my own obsession. It showed me that I had succumbed to the belief that cellphones were only good for our social lives. It makes me wonder what my friends and I have overlooked because of our cellphones. Most likely we did not miss what was happening on the cellphone, but what was happening around us. I am sure that I have missed out on the opportunity to make new friends and enhance old friendships. I propose that if cellphones were turned off then our social lives will thrive.
Bittman, Michael, Brown, Judith E., and Wajcman, Judy. “The Mobile Phone,
Perpetual Contact and Time Pressure.” Work, Employment & Society 23.4
December 2009: Web. 26 September 2011.
Healy, Melissa. “We’re All Multi-tasking, but What’s the Cost?: We’re Just Not Wired
To Do So Much at Once.” Los Angeles Times 19 July 2004: Web. 26 September 2011.
Ling, Rich. The Mobile Connection: The Cell Phone’s Impact on Society. San Francisco:
Morgan Kaufmann, 2004. Print.
Ludden, Jennifer. “Teen Texting Soars; Will Social Skills Suffer?” NPR. n.p. 20 April
2010. Web. 18 September 2011.
Neyfakh, Leon. “The Power of Lonely.” The Boston Globe. n.p. 6 March 2011. Web. 21
“The Social Impact of Mobile Telephony.” International Telecommunication Union
Web. 26 September2011.