Cell Phone Nation (or: Why I hate cell phones)

First of all, let me say this clearly. It’s. A. Telephone. Not a camera, not a Game Boy, not a computer, and not a boom box.


Modern society is ruled by technology, much of which is good for humanity as a whole. One of the most pervasive technologies, however, is the cell phone, and I have to argue that it is also one of the worst. In so stating, I’m risking the ire of my sisters and most of the general population, who are in love with these tiny dictators. But before you tune me out entirely for being stuck in the mud, hear me out. These are my problems with Cell Phone Nation:


1. Sound quality. In time, this will probably improve, but at present, I often spend half a conversation saying, “What? I’m sorry, I couldn’t understand you.” The sound quality on a cell phone is miserable compared to the clarity of a land line.


2. Safety in driving. Hands free sound quality is even worse. Besides, talking itself is a distraction. When someone is in the car with you, conversation stops when you need to focus on traffic. This is possible with cell phone, too, but I’ve yet to see it happen.


3. Being too accessible. When a friend of mine first got a cell phone, he said, “I hate being this accessible.” My sister protests, “You can turn it off whenever you don’t want to answer it!” This is true, but a) how many do? and b) my experience is, people who turn it off tend to do so at times they ought to be available—like when they’re at home in the evening. They only want to talk to people when they’re in the car. See point 2.


Besides, we all need to get away and be alone, to rest, to rejuvenate, to commune with quiet. (Unfortunately I don’t think everyone realizes this.) If I take a cell phone out to the middle of nowhere, just to make sure I can be reached in an emergency, then I have to leave it on, don’t I? And then I’m accessible to everyone. Can I choose not to answer? Yes, but let’s be honest. Who can concentrate on silencing the chaos of the mind when there’s a phone in your pocket with missed calls and/or voice mails waiting to be answered?


4. Lack of planning and organization has skyrocketed since cell phones became all-pervasive. For example:


St. Louis is a day trip for much of my husband’s family, so sometimes we meet there to go to the zoo, etc. When I was a kid, plans for such occasions were made in advance: Meet at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time. It was a hassle in the planning stage, but the trip was easy.


A similar trip now involves virtually no planning whatsoever. Instead, we get something like this: “Oh, we get up when the kids wake up, depends on when we go to bed the night before, and we’ll have breakfast and then get on the road, maybe be there mid-morning, maybe closer to noon or one o’clock. We’ll just see how the day goes.” And then, the kicker: “We’ll call you when we get on the road.


The reason people can do this is because everyone has cell phones.


The result of people doing this is that a family day trip to St. Louis involves about 2-3 hours of family time crunched in around 4-6 hours of driving, bad naps or no naps, and a great deal of frustration.


I know you’ve all experienced this, too.


5. This lack of planning extends to all of life. Cell phones have changed the way we plan our days (or don’t) and the way we live—and not for the better. Everyone knows the Web is a distraction. Why on earth do you want it on your telephone? In the Cell Phone Nation, there is no escape from chaos. We’re all stressed, we’re all tired all the time, and there is no rest.


Now, I will grant that a cell phone has its place. As an emergency contact, it’s great. And realtors, for instance, would be hampered by the lack of a cell phone. But the vast bulk of business traffic could be done just as easily by land line.


In conclusion, I’m going to recommend a book I read recently. It’s called Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, and it talks about the tremendous disconnect between modern life and nature. In essence, research tells us that we are biologically wired for existence in nature, and we ignore our need for wilderness at our own peril. It is dense reading material, but very interesting. I highly recommend it.


Down with Cell Phones!!!!!!