As the embodiment of various activities, characteristics, and beliefs of a society, popular culture plays a vital role in giving a community or society a sense of identity. Given that popular culture is the expression of the inherent activities that are unique to a given society (Browne, 2005, p.3), popular culture defines a society.
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The act of using the cell phone for texting while driving is a common yet dangerous practice by road users in America. Two entities come into play concerning cell phone use while driving.
First, the widespread availability of the cell phone and the critical role that it plays as a communication gadget in the activities of many people across the US makes it an almost indispensable tool for a driver. The past decade has seen the cell phone become the most common communication gadget in the world, and the US has one of the highest rates of cell phone use.
Therefore, the cell phone industry has experienced phenomenal growth, and advertisements of cell phones with diverse features are common in the mass media. Secondly, the average American society is usually highly dependent on communication and technology. Unlike in the past, most letters, cash transactions, tutorials and business transactions are conducted electronically. The use of the cell phone for texting is thus simply another aspect of the fast-paced, cheap and effective communication media available today.
Accordingly, two theories fit into the topic of cell phone texting while driving. The theory of the culture industry states that, popular culture is dictated by mass consumerism within a society.
Therefore, the mass sale and advertisement of cell phone has led to its widespread acquisition and use within the US, with the act of cell phone texting while driving being an inevitable consequence. Because nearly all Americans within and beyond the teen years own at least one cell phone and a similar number own a drivers license, the likelihood of cell phone use (texting) while driving is highly increased.
Therefore, cell phone texting while driving becomes a by-product of mass consumerism. Another theory, which aptly captures the act of cell phone texting while driving, is the theory of progressive evolution. Popular culture as analyzed through this theory is simply an expression of the genuine needs and actions of the people. Therefore, the use of cell phones for texting while driving expresses a critical characteristic of the average American: his/her ever-busy predisposition.
Many Americans text while driving because the fast paced modern lifestyle Americans live involves having to perform multiple tasks (such as texting while driving) in order to accomplish the many errands to be done and even save time. Therefore, according to this theory, cell phone texting while driving – although highly dangerous for the driver and other road users – is simply an expression of the lifestyle of Americans.
By analyzing the act of cell phone texting while driving through the lenses of the stated theories, I have been able to understand the act comprehensively. Previously, I dismissed all persons guilty of this dangerous act as careless individuals on a self-declared kamikaze mission. I failed to understand why anyone would ‘willingly’ risk his or her life and those of other road users by using his or her cell phone while driving.
However, the two theories have enabled me to look at the act in from a remarkably different angle. The theory of mass culture industry has enabled me to understand the origin of the act, and appreciate how the user of the cell phone while driving is simply the victim of a culture that glorifies the cell phone. The theory of progressive evolution, on the other hand, has enabled me to appreciate that the use of cell phone while driving, although dangerous, is an expression of the ever-busy lifestyle of the average American.
I no longer heap the entire blame on the cell phone using driver, and I now understand that to eliminate the habit may require the re-structuring of the entire American way of life as we know it – such is the interconnectedness between cell phone texting while driving and the prototypical American way of living.
Browne, R. B. (Ed.). (2005). Profiles of Popular Culture: A Reader. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.