When cell phones were first introduced, they revolutionized the world. All of a sudden, people could make phone calls from anywhere, send text messages to friends and family, and enjoy significant convenience. Over time, as technology tends to do, cell phones got better. Smart phones have been developed, and with every new version there comes more capability. This means that my use of cell phones is distinct even from the way cell phones were used a few years ago by my sister. She used cell phones in a fairly typical way, to make calls, send texts, and generally keep in touch with people. Today, I use cell phones for much more, taking in digital media in various formats, staying attuned to new media that brings me opinions on things like politics from all over the world, and even experiencing both the upside and downside associated with the utilization of social media.
One of the ways in which my experience with cell phones is distinct from that of my sister is through my use of digital media. It was not long ago that cell phones had a difficult time playing videos. The first iPhone allowed people to play music, but it was difficult for video forms to load. Today, I use my cell phone to consume this media, which has become much more rampant. Those people who produce content have come to understand that more and more people are using videos to learn about a host of different issues. When I am driving long distances, I throw on Ted talks that inform me about the world and topics I would have never thought of otherwise. I listen to podcasts, which were not available back when my sister was using a cell phone. While she was able to take advantage of the opportunity to connect widely with important people in her life, I have been able to do much more than that with my cell phone.
In addition to that, my use of cell phones is all about the consumption of new media today. The way that people consume media has changed. While there are still traditional forms of media, almost anyone can be a news source now. Twitter, for instance, is one of the most important news sources, as it allows almost anyone to be a journalist, reporting from one the ground when major and important events happen around the country (Yamamoto et al, 2015). Blogs and other forms of user-generated content are available for consumption (Sundar & Limperos, 2013). Simply put, cell phones have made this much easier both to produce and to consume. In some ways, I have even been a part of this movement, reporting on what I have seen at times in my own city. My sister never had the opportunity to be on either end of this new media with her cell phone. The capability was not there, and social movements had not yet formed to provide the platform for producing this new media. Today, new media is even threatening to put traditional media out of business, as more people are willing to consume news from sources that are mobile and less traditional.
While there are many things about my cell phone that have allowed me to take advantage of a more fulfilling life, there are some downsides, as well. I often use my cell phone to be a part of social media, checking up on what my friends and family members are going, posting pictures, and engaging in discussions on a range of different topics. However, this also has some downsides. One of the social implications of social media is difficulty with social comparison. We are constantly being fed pictures of our friends and family members as their best possible selves (Roberts et al, 2014). This can create problems because it can make it difficult to ever be satisfied (Sidani et al, 2014). While my sister might not have been able to use her cell phone to stay as connected, she also did not have to grapple with the realities of social comparison and the occasional mental health issues that can result from constant engagement in this way.
Ultimately cell phones have changed the world in ways that are both good and bad. They bring us closer together, allow us to take advantage of new media, and provide means by which we can be constantly engaged. I have used cell phones in a manner much different than that of my sister. While my experience has been fulfilling and emblematic of social trends, it has not been all positive, as there are many ways in which my use of cell phones has reflected the negatives that cell phones have brought on society.
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- Sidani, J. E., Shensa, A., Radovic, A., Miller, E., Colditz, J. B., Hoffman, B. L., … & Primack, B. A. (2016). Association between social media use and depression among US young adults. Depression and anxiety, 33(4), 323-331.
- Sundar, S. S., & Limperos, A. M. (2013). Uses and grats 2.0: New gratifications for new media. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 504-525.
- Yamamoto, M., Kushin, M. J., & Dalisay, F. (2015). Social media and mobiles as political mobilization forces for young adults: Examining the moderating role of online political expression in political participation. New Media & Society, 17(6), 880-898.