Are Cell Phones Stopping Us From Interacting?

Businessman talking on cell phone

It sounds odd that the most innovative personal communication device of all humankind’s history would also be the biggest stopping block to human interaction. Why would such an electronic marvel that makes phone calls, sends text messages, connects with the internet and has an internal computer more powerful than the system on Apollo 11 that went to the moon and back be so destructive to our ability to communicate with each other?Because, in an effort to make communication easier, the very users became warped and spoiled, turning into evolutionary morons who fail to have a societal set of rules for meaningful relationships.

People saw the writing on the wall back in 2007, as with the article, “Is technology encouraging people to separate themselves from rest of the world?” author Jessica Mondillo writes:

When you look around just about everywhere in Boston has signs for iPods. Every single sign features a person alone dancing with bright attractive colors and an iPod. Although advertising this way is smart because it attracts a person’s eyes and the iPod stands out, it brings up a better question: Is technology encouraging people to separate themselves from rest of the world?

Overall I would say yes. Walking down the hall of the average college building you see people either on their cell phones or with ear buds from their iPods or other MP3 players in their ears.  At LEAST half the people you see walking around are using one of these devices. Everybody is so self absorbed that people don’t talk to each other. iPods and other MP3 players are like a wall blocking out the rest of the world.

“Cell” phone — aptly named. Because these devices are virtual prisons that capture the individual’s consciousness, rob him of his freedom, alienate him from his neighbors and the natural world. Is there any apparition more depressing than a man walking by himself, talking to his cell phone, gesticulating to the unseeing air? What do they talk about? What is the attraction of “being in touch?” What solace is there in a voice that says, “Just checking in?” or one breathlessly announcing that he’s just clipped his toe nails and fed the dog? says George Gurley, in his article, “Cell phones separate us from reality.”

Mr. Gurley continues:

It’s no an exaggeration to say that these pernicious devices have changed the nature of human experience. Checking the cell phone for messages has become a universal gesture, almost replacing the salutary wave of greeting. People have become more comfortable relating to the voice of an absent person than to those who are actually near at hand. A new “community” of disembodied talkers has replaced the society of human beings. Friends are now a collection of names on an electronic index.

There’s more bad news; Nomophobia, the fear of being away from one’s mobile device has become a legitimate medical condition.

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Doctors at a California recovery center say they are working with more and more patients suffering from nomophobia, or the fear of being away from their mobile devices, and that the condition can seriously interfere with people’s lives. reports an article in the New York Daily News.

“People check their phones up to 34 times a day,” says Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, whose clients at Morningside Recovery Center are typically in treatment for other issues, but discover their obsession with their cell phones is a problem in itself.
“If people are constantly on their phone during dinner, one-on-one-time, or family time; it can cause impairment to their relationships,” Dr. Waterman told the Daily News. “They’re ignoring their social relationships because they’re focused on their phone.”

When Did We Go Insane?

Social media cell phone communication

Who would think even five to six years ago how the smart phone would change society. The laptop was being challenged by the net book for ease of mobility and mobile phones were for making phone calls while text messages were still costing one dollar each. Email via one’s computer was the preferred electronic communication and there were set rules as to how they should be written and the understanding was basic letter writing form and etiquette. Then, with the popularity of text messaging, phone service providers started offering packages for all-inclusive, unlimited text messaging.

Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the text message. I preferred to speak with someone and have the ability to ask questions and receive answers within one voice interaction. One friend of mine insisted on texts. She didn’t like speaking on the phone and any phone message was answered fairly quickly with a text message, usually not answering all the questions put forth. As time went on and other users started relying upon texting, the save-time spellings became an acceptable and expected language of texting. That was the first key in the downfall of civilized society.

It’s not so bad that “lol” or “ur2” started turning messages into ten letters or less for a communication but text-speak started to appear on people’s résumés and interoffice communications. It split people into two factions; the text-spellers and the English speakers. The English-speakers were appalled and the text-speakers had no idea why. My friends slapped me for spelling out complete words and using punctuation and upper and lowercase letters. I still can’t bring myself to use text-speak. When I receive a résumé using text-speak I have to wonder if the person will ever get a job. The problem is, they do. I receive emails from them and have to reply, outlining what they’ve asked so I can write a proper creative brief or contract so there are no misunderstandings down the road of a project. Misunderstandings can lead to scope creep on projects and that translates to wasted money for one or both parties.

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Language should be a common thread that runs through a society. Texting is usually freeform and it assumes understanding. For human interaction, language has been the basis of understanding since the Tower of Babel.

Texting Can Be a Dangerous Private Practice

Texting has also been criticized as a major cause of traffic accidents and fatalities. Can people really consider themselves so alone that they drive while concentrating on the small keys, asking “where r u?”

Interacting with other humans takes eye contact, a smile, listening and attention. How many times have you seen or read complaints about people with their heads down, paying more attention to their phones than what’s happening around them? There are couples who actually text each other while sitting in the same room or house, rather than lifting their heads and talking. Mobile technology is actually promoting more and more introversion from users. The iTheater is a device with a screen that is attached to a headset with headphones and is perfect for those who want to sit alone and watch movies and TV. That’s fine when you are sitting on a plane or train and don’t want to bother other people around you, and admirable if you remember the days of the boom box on people’s shoulders but how many people will sit at home or in the office using these?

As for those who use a Bluetooth, do you ever wonder at first sight if a person speaking aloud while walking through the supermarket is totally insane before you spot the little earpiece crammed in their skull? What medical damage or permanent mutation must that be causing to one’s ear?

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Sharing Thy True Self

Illuminated One

I can’t say I understand the practice of sexting — taking a picture of one’s private parts to send to someone else — although I’ve received a few and saved and shared them. Do people really want these photos floating around the world wide web? It might not show your face but there are moles and freckles (sometimes jewelry) that can identify who’s the person with the missing face in these photos. I’m not a prude but does this honor the 8 MP cameras that now adorn most mobile phones?

To be fair, the phone camera and video function has also brought us the world in seconds as opposed to days and weeks that newspapers and even TV news has been able to do. Anyone with a mobile phone is now a reporter, sharing events as they happen. Some political analysts claim the fall of the Soviet Union was not due to the economics of the cold war but to electronic media sharing lifestyles the people didn’t have but yearned for. The same may apply to the current rebellions going on in other countries of the world due to sites like Facebook that share photos and thoughts posted via mobile technology. All it will take is a common language and human interaction.

Can This Be Used for Better Business?

Getting back to the rampant Nomophobia, it’s reported: “More women than men — 70 percent, versus 61 percent — reported being afraid of losing cell phones, while men are more likely than women — 47 percent versus 36 percent — to have two cell phones.”

Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported on a survey from mobile app company TeleNav Inc., which showed that 40 percent of people with iPhones said they’d rather give up brushing their teeth for a week than go without their phone.

The answer for businesses, it seems, is the damage or changes are firmly rooted in society, for better or worse, so, why not give consumers what they want? Institute more responsive design and mobile apps. Bring your business to the consumer via a mobile platform and hope that when they do call to take advantage of your product or service, they don’t babble on in some unintelligible text-speak. Then again, if you don’t remember your high school Spanish, French or German, then Rosetta Stone might have a text language immersion program you should invest in.

Images ©GL Stock Images


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3 thoughts on “Are Cell Phones Stopping Us From Interacting?

  1. Where as advertising via the cell-phone-sphere makes sense, you are absolutely correct. Go to the break room at work and most everyone is flipping through videos, texting playing games etc. People ignore cashiers and where they are walking let alone driving. This will only get worse as tech gets better. I wish there was a way to convince everyone to cut back!