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Cell phones are making us obtuse and lonely! This observation might sound usurious, but emerging research supports these unsettling claims. In a study conducted in 2009, Gorlick notes that media “multitasking or ‘high-tech juggling’ between web browsing, emailing, and texting, for example, impairs cognitive control and is counterproductive” (par. 6). When Martin Cooper invented the cell phone in 1973, most probably he meant well for the society; unfortunately, his invention brought unintended consequences.
The social disruption
People have become busy doing nothing – busy surfing the Internet for irrelevant issues instead of engaging in constructive talks and activities. Social skills are dying at an unparalleled rate because people have become escapists. The conventional get-togethers and evening talks have slowly vanished and whenever people meet face-to-face, it becomes a challenge to hold a thirty-minute conversation (Panaccione par. 5).
After the routine pleasantries, cell phones take the center stage as everyone dishes out his/hers. This way, people have become escapists, with cellphones presenting a perfect escape route, an escape route from reality, the reality that human being are social beings and they need to interact in real time. Unfortunately, instead of accepting the fact that we are becoming as dumb as a box of rocks, we justify our escapist behavior by boasting of how many followers we have over the social media platforms, which apparently we can access anytime from anywhere via our cellphones. The social fabric is disintegrating and very soon, it will be in tatters. Interpersonal communication skills are irreplaceable for any functional society. It is sad, a very sad era, where people are connected, but lonely.
As aforementioned, there is sufficient research to support the unconscionable claim that we are becoming a dumb society courtesy of cellphones. A study conducted in 2008 showed that frequent “cellphone users would be less likely to talk to strangers in public settings due the ‘tele-cocooning effect’ or the tendency of cell phones to reduce interpersonal interactions” (Subrahmanyam and Greenfield 120).
Apparently, cellphones have become people’s closest friends, but friends are meant to be real, to offer a shoulder to cry one, to offer solutions, and stand by you at times of trouble. This assertion underscores how people have become eternally disconnected from the basics of a social wellbeing. At one time Jose Ortega said, “Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are” (Wretlind par. 5) and from this assertion, one can easily conclude that we have become one sick generation – sick from an emerging malady, called ‘social disjunction’.
Apparently, “more than 203 million Americans own a cell phone1 and as many as 30% say they cannot live without it… 80% of college students have ‘mobile phone dependency syndrome’ and among them 48% are serious cases that compulsively check and touch their phone every several minutes” (Myers 13).
The available evidence is sufficient to conclude that the society is losing its social grounding and very soon, we might have a bunch of introverts, not by birth, but by making. Cellphone is one of the greatest inventions of our times, but its effects are devastating, hence the need to come up with mitigation measures in the quest to save humanity from becoming zombies by default.
I have watched the scenario of social disconnectedness unravel with chills running down my spine. The other day I could not help, but mourn for this lost generation after I attended a birthday party of one of my few real friends. The party was hosted in a social hall and it was full to the brim, and thus I expected the event to be lively, but I was sadly mistaken.
Everyone, including the host, was busy with his/her cell phone and from chatting, texting, taking photos to upload to the social media to listening to music via earphones; all people were lost in their world. I sat at a corner and as I sat there, I remembered a piece I read last week and the author claimed, “We live in a world where losing your phone is more dramatic than losing your virginity, and I found it way more distressing because I could not call my mum and tell her about it” (Wretlind par. 9).
From the way individuals were engrossed in their cell phones, I undoubtedly concluded that one could suffer from acute depression after losing a cellphone. The other day I saw an article titled, “life is what happens when your phone is charging” (Shanley and Heir par. 1), and I could not help, but marvel at the wisdom behind those words. Apparently, people need to lose their phones in a bid to start enjoying life.
Cell phones have wrecked havoc in social skills in the contemporary society. However, there is hope and I am hopeful that not all is lost, that can once again, like soldiers, dust ourselves from the social disconnectedness blow and start living again, a life of social warmth defined by face-to-face healthy interactions.
Gorlick, Adam. Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows, 2009. Web.
Myers, Nichol. Social Isolation and cellphone use by college students, 2013. Web.
Panaccione, Vicki. Do Smartphones Make Us Smarter or Dumber, 2013. Web.
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Shanley, Tracy, and April Heir 2013, Life is what happens when your phone is charging. Web.
Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, and Patricia Greenfield. “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships.” Children and Electronic Media 18.1(2008): 119-146. Print.
Wretlind, Jessica. Disconnect to Get More Connected: Lessons from a Phone-Free Month, 2014. Web.