How else will mobile phones ruin your life?

By Laura Bergells on

I’ve owned a cell phone since 1999. I even had a bag phone circa 1995. Over 80% of American adults now use some kind of mobile phone. In my experience, I see cell phones as a tool that helps us avoid making plans and sticking to them.

Cell phones give people an excuse to be late.

Today, it’s more popular to say “I’ll just text and say I’m running late,” than it is to actually show up at a previously agreed upon time and place.

If I decide to travel without my cell phone, etiquette-wise, I’m the one who’s in the wrong.

“Didn’t you get my text 15 minutes ago telling you that I’d be 30 minutes late and in a different building? No? What’s wrong with you? The mobile phone frees us from the shackles of planning and commitment. Do not ever let yourself become separated from the bonds that free you. Ever again.”

(Not) Reading Texts Photo credit: C.A.P.

People use their cell phones, excuse me — I mean mobile phones — excuse me, I mean smart phones —  for more than calling these days. Curiously, calling people is not the core function of the modern phone. Mostly, American adults use their “mo smart” phones — yes, that sounds right — so that they can be marketed to more effectively.

Really, there’s little point walking around unfettered. The mo smart phone enables relevant messages to permeate your random thoughtstream. Why simply walk past a bakery without a second glance, thinking poetically about profound matters of the heart, when a small electronic noise can alert you that one of your friends whose taste you don’t admire once frequented the establishment in 2010? And that if you, too, visit the bakery immediately, you may get 50 cents off your bill and earn a perky point? Really? Why wouldn’t you want this kind of geographically relevant data occupying your thoughts every square second of the day? How is this not an improvement on making your own fuzzy mental connections that may not have anything to do with said bakery?

What’s the point of pointless pondering or mindless meditation? Why not cram those useless moments with direct and geographically relevant marketing filler?

The mo smart phone can fill those empty spots in your head with all sorts of tittle-tattle, as well. Instead of interacting with the immediate, physical world or making your own unique mental connections; you can fill those unproductive moments with the knowledge that a girl you once knew in high school thinks her kitten is cute, and so do her friends, most of whom you do not know.

The right kind of knowledge, at the exact right time and place, is the right kind of power.

I made an appointment using a mo smart phone the other day. That is to say, my colleague called another colleague on his mo smart phone in my presence. They set a date, time, and place. When they agreed, I overheard. I jotted down the details in my paper calendar. Done.

My colleague fiddled around for 4 minutes with his mobile calendar app, and said,

“Let me email you the information, so you can put it in your calendar,” he said.

“Already done,” I said. “Five minutes ago.”

“How did you get the information? I don’t have it posted yet myself,” he asked, incredulous.

“I heard you. I’m sitting right here,” I said, shocked that he overlooked the obvious analog channel.

“You’ll get my email confirmation in a sec,” he said. “Dammit, punched the wrong button, lost everything. What was the date again?”

I had to repeat his lost information. Without access to digital information, he seemed helpless.

Another colleague and I were in a bar in a strange city. We wanted to move on, to go somewhere else, but we didn’t know where. She whipped out her mobile phone.

“I’ll search for hot spots with good reviews and get a map,” she muttered, eyes down. Fumble, fumble.

I looked up, saw a nice looking fellow ordering my label. I walked over and chatted him up. He gave me the skinny on what he thought our next few stops should be. I scribbled down a few directions, thanked him, and went back to my colleague, who was still furiously poking her machine.

“Let’s go,” I said. “I’ve got our night planned.”

“Wait,” she said, pounding away like an insane monkey. “I haven’t got it figured out yet.”

Don’t kid yourself that your mobile phone is making you smart. It sells you stuff you don’t need. It sucks your time away. It fractures your focus. It makes you less productive and more ant-social. It endangers you when you lose awareness of the physical world around you. And it robs you of critical thinking skills.

How else will you let mobile phones ruin your life?