As I observe society, it becomes apparent there are many ways that cell phones have impacted how we live. All around me, people are connecting in different ways and using cell phones productively in ways that they couldn’t have done so efficiently in the twentieth century. Currrently to my right, a man is making a cellular phone call from his car. He could easily be completing a business deal, calling his son, or making a reservation for dinner with his wife. To my left, there is a woman texting on her phone. She could be engaged in similar activities without actually speaking to a person. These examples instantly remind me that cell phones are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they help the world stay connected and productive. On the other hand, their ease-of-use obviously adds an element of danger to the public. Both the drivers are placing other commuters in their immediate vicinity at risk due to being distracted by cell phone and text conversations. At once, my phone rings, and it is a long-lost friend from across the country. In the past, I might have lost touch with this person, but cell phones have given me the ability to stay in touch seamlessly.
Options that this particular technology provides have touched the most important parts of our lives: family relationships, romantic relationships, and business relationships. But along with the undeniable positive impacts, as with any disruptive technology, the news is not all good. There will be some trade-off when society adopts innovation of this scale. For us the tradeoff is in the form of danger via distraction and potentially shallower relationships. This is the great conundrum with cell phones: Is the additional convenience and connectedness worth the social costs that come when cell phones are added into the mix? That is the question that this paper will ultimately explore.
Cell phones have made substantial changes to the way people interact with their work today. I have found that they make work both easier and more difficult. For example, on one hand, it is quite easy for people to stay in touch with their clients or their bosses. They can accomplish more, no matter what kind of duties are involved. In fact, not only do today’s workers have the ability to provide better services to clients and customers, but the job hunters have options when connecting with potential employers.
Smart phones can store and send resumes and applications. Allowing employers to reached more efficiently and respond more efficiently. During the previous century, employers would have to leave a message on a person’s home answering machine and that prospect would have needed to wait by the phone instead of following up on other job leads. Cell or smart phones have made job search productivity much easier for both sides.
Imagine, though, that a person is done with work for the day. She is tired, ready to head home and talk with her family. She may have even had plans to go to a show then have some dinner in the quiet recess of her dining room. But cell phones give bosses the ability to demand much more from their employees. Today, employers can call their employees, send emails, or even get in touch via text. For employees who are working on a salary basis, it is almost impossible to tell a boss that he cannot make this kind of contact, so It turns out that people are not actually off of work when they get off of work (Gant, 2002). This can be a nightmare for individuals who already have tough, difficult schedules. Even being required or expected to respond to emails in one’s off time could be considered unfair, and it is certainly not the type of thing that help work/life balance.
When that woman gets home from work, rather than looking at another work email, she might be wanting to do things that will help her build and sustain a romantic relationship. Speaking of which, it should come as no surprise that cell phones have changed the game in romantic relationships, too. That young woman can call her boyfriend, fianceé, or husband on demand, making a call from work, in the car, or elsewhere. In the past, she might have been limited to a very short block of time when she was sitting at home. Now, especially with texting, there is no limit to the number of times she can speak with her man during the course of a day. More than that, she might even want to send a picture of whatever she is doing or she may want to take a video. This allows the other person to stay informed of what is going on during the day. She picks up her phone to see that she has many options. Does she want to make a traditional phone call or will she use the “Facetime” feature on her iPhone. This is one that is supplied by many phone makers, and it allows people to place phone calls where they can actually see the face of the other person.
In romantic relationships, connected is good, but sometimes that young woman may wonder whether more communication necessarily leads to better communication. Sure, she can send a number of texts to her lover over the course of a day, but when they speak, it seems as if the conversations are shorter. Text messages have changed the game, giving the couple the ability to communicate in a few characters. Though this may seem good, she may wonder what happened to the deep connections that she knew in the past. Cell phones have, in many ways, made it more difficult for her and others to maintain these deep connections. The inconvenience factor of commerce necessitates short, practical conversations because it costs money for every minute a person talks on the phone, there is some temptation to keep the conversations short. This could be turning society into one where people do not like to fully express themselves to the people they value the most (Aoki, 2003). It might mean that society’s communication is one mile wide, but only a few inches deep. This, it seems, is the conundrum with this kind of communication. Cell phones give and they take away, leaving society with many positives but a few negatives that cannot be ignored.
The young woman in our story is not just seeing changes with her relationships. Rather, she realizes that she is now able to keep up with people who she might have lost touch with in the past. Cell phones allow for communication around the globe. This communication is easier, and more importantly, it is not nearly as expensive as it might have otherwise been. Traditional phones place the cost of long-distance calls very high. A person who wanted to connect with a friend from childhood will need to have significant resources to do so.
Cell phones allow our young woman to stay more mobile and active. They have allowed her to not worry about the barriers that might have kept her from engaging in long-distance friendships before. In the past, it might not have made sense to start a friendship with a person many states or even many countries away. After all, when could a person ever talk to their friend? Cell phones have changed this, though, giving people the power to make a connection. This has opened the floodgates to new possibilities.
Cell phones provide students with access to as much information as they could ever want. If our young woman had a daughter, that daughter might be able to use the Internet at the age of nine to look up information on historical figures, chemical processes, and a host of other things. This has put many possibilities right in the hands of all people, making those students smarter at the same time.
Not all is gold, though, as this has brought about many more challenges for educators. Now, cheating is much easier at all levels. Students can go to the restroom and use a cell phone to look up the answers on a test. Likewise, cell phones add yet another distraction to the mix, as students are always a few clicks away from talking with their friends or accessing social media sites that can provide them with the entertainment they seek.
As our young woman drives home from work, she looks around her to see people connecting on their cell phones to friends and family around the world. She remarks that this situation is dangerous, and she is almost certainly right. Cell phones are dangerous when they are used by people on the road (Caird, 2008). They lead to increased numbers of crashes, especially when people are using cell phones to text (Lenhart, 2010). This is a trade-off that society has made. Society had determined, at least on some level, that it wants its communication more than its safety. For this reason, society has allowed cell phones despite their relative downsides.
Cell phones have played an important role in changing the way people interact today. While in the past, people may have had to wait by their home phones to talk with potential employers, boyfriends, or even their husbands, people today are able to go out into the world without worrying that they will miss an important phone call. Because of this, cell phones have played a major role in making people more mobile. The addition of the Internet to mobile phones has shifted the game in another way, putting all people within clicks of networks that can connect them with people from around the globe. People have the opportunity to make lasting connections with those around them. Whether or not they do this depends upon a number of different factors.
- Aoki, Kumiko, and Edward J. Downes. “An analysis of young people’s use of and attitudes toward cell phones.” Telematics and Informatics 20.4 (2003): 349-364.
- Caird, Jeff K., et al. “A meta-analysis of the effects of cell phones on driver performance.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 40.4 (2008): 1282-1293.
- Gant, Diana, and Sara Kiesler. “Blurring the boundaries: cell phones, mobility, and the line between work and personal life.” Wireless world. Springer London, 2002. 121-131.