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Opinion

Cell phone abuse across campus produces intolerance, irritation

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October 7, 2010

If you look back at your life, it is likely that some of the best conversations you ever had were at a dining table, at home, at a friend’s house or at a restaurant.

Indeed, having lunch with my friends is something I look forward to every day. Whether our conversation is something light, like how so-and-so almost fell down the stairs that day, or whether it is something much more profound, it is generally engaging.  Ever since I was little kid I have enjoyed telling stories about my random observations, exaggerating them just a little to make my audience laugh. However, there is one thing that as a child I never did encounter at lunch: the cell phone.

It has happened to me a number of times now: The usual suspects and I are out to lunch and I am right in the middle of telling some silly story, mentally setting it up for a fantastic finish.  Arriving at the punch line, I begin to giggle at my own brilliance when I realize that none of my audience are listening. Instead, they have their cell phones up to their faces, vigorously texting who-knows-what-is-not-important!  Unmoving, I sit in silence and wait impatiently for them to hit “send.” Simultaneously, they put their phones down and look up at me as if I am going to retell the end of the story. I think not.

Look around campus and I bet you will spot 30 students with their phones out at any given moment. I’m surprised people don’t fall down the stairs or run into trees more often with the way their eyes are constantly glued to tiny luminescent screens. Think of all they are missing! Anyway, seeing all these phones as the prominent form of communication has me wondering what life in the future will be like. Will we have spoken language? Will there be wristwatches?

Perhaps those potential outcomes are a bit radical, but if you pay attention you can already see how these metallic rectangles are shaping my generation. For instance, one of the wonderful qualities of a cell phone is that you do not have to wait long for information. “Girl A” texts her friend who is vacationing in Florida, asking her how her trip is going. Within seconds, “Girl B” answers “Girl A” with a picture message of her smiling on the beach.  Lovely.  But you know that if “Girl A’s” friend hadn’t texted her back in a reasonable time (i.e. within thirty seconds) “Girl A” would be thinking about her unanswered text on the verge of a conniption until she received an answer.

People in the early 20th century probably scoff at our ridiculous lack of patience. Also, it is my personal opinion that these know-it-all phones are eclipsing other perfectly fine resources, such as human beings. I once sat in the passenger seat of a car that was parked at a gas station waiting for my friend to figure out how to get back on the highway using the GPS on her phone. She finally figured it out, but not until after I had walked into the gas station and asked the clerk for directions, which he very kindly wrote out for me on paper. Goodbye common sense, you will be dearly missed.

Please don’t get me wrong, I think cell phones are amazing pieces of technology and incredibly useful, most of the time. When my mom bought me my first Motorola cell phone the summer after my 18th birthday, I was ecstatic! After, with that little purple phone was symbolic of a new liberty in my life. But I wonder, could these phones also be taking away from our lives? I mean, just how much time do you spend each day staring at your phone. And is what you see there really so important?

Ashley Cress is a student at UW-River Falls.

Comments

Elliot on 04 Dec 2010: I just sent you an e-mail about Facebook. Highly coincidental that I read this, because I had another editorial published in the Star Trib in about 2005 concerning how I converse with my friends. I touched on many of the same issues. Don't ever feel alienated because of your beliefs. No sense in following the herd...