Cell Phones – Ange or demon?

Cell phones are important and indispensable parts of our lives.

I was yesterday, discussing this with my brother and we were concluding that we can live one day without Internet, but not a single day without a mobile phone.

Cell phones are not just telephones, they are our agenda, our clock, our calculator, but most important of all, our way of being always connected with family and friends, of knowing what is happening and of being constantly in touch. Certainly, they are also vital professional tools. However, what is most significant to us is that they help us to coordinate our daily agendas, to articulate with our family and friends when and where are going to meet, if we are late, where are they, what are they doing and so on. It gives us a sense of security.

Of course, this has several costs, besides the dependency and the radiations, that mostly experts say it can seriously harm our health, for instance you have to be always available, because if you do not answer a call, people get mad, specially when you do not get back to them on due time. In fact, Xmas text messages invade our mobile phones in this season…and you just feel you have to reply to the hundreds of people that, sometimes only remember you on Holidays.

In Portugal, in the third trimester of 2007, we had 12, 9 millions of mobile phones subscribers (http://www.anacom.pt/template12.jsp?categoryId=238482).

A propos, this is a very interesting article about this particular issue:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17486953

This article explains that cell phones changed what means to make a phone call. For instance, our perception about time and punctuality is being altered, as cell phones help us to negotiate time and arrival time, decreasing the stress of being late.

Cell phones are also changing how we relate to one another, they seem to “tighten our inner social sphere”, but simultaneously to untie the bonds with those outside our inner circle.

Some concerns are related to the fact that cell phones are denominated “pacifiers for adults” or “electronic tethers”, as people can’t be alone anymore (Well, we are undoubtedly a “social animal”!). In addition, the line between the public and the private is becoming fuzzy.

One thought on “Cell Phones – Ange or demon?

  1. Marcos Caceres

    In your post you say “the radiation, that mostly experts say it can seriously harm our health”. I’m not sure there is much real evidence to actually linking radiation from mobile to “health harm” or cancer. I think that’s just FUD. If there is medical evidence, it sure would like to see it.

    I guess another interesting aspect is looking at the impact that people who don’t have mobile phones have on a network of people who do make heavy use of mobiles. Consider, for instance, cases where your mobile phone runs out of batteries or you lose your mobile phone. There is also the case where people refuse outright to get a mobile phone. The reason I bring this up is because I had a recent experience with such a person (a friend’s father). Because he refused to get a mobile phone, it was frustrating everyone because we had to coordinate all our actions around where he would be at particular times of the day (which had to be arranged before hand using a normal telephone). Him not having a mobile phone basically disempowered a whole group of people because we could just not show up or call him to tell him we were going to be late (but he could, because he could call us from public phones, etc.) Although I found the experience terribly frustrating, I also found it interesting as it demonstrated the utility of communication in making us feel individually empowered by our ability to coordinate actions and events using technology and what happens when others are not willing to participate.

    I think as mobile technologies go into overdrive (with the introduction of GeoLocation services and faster speeds), I think we will see the mobile device both increase our sense of individual empowerment but at the same time segregate us more because fewer people in our social network will have access to these costly services. For example, I won’t expect my father to have a 3G iPhone and thus I won’t be able to automatically coordinate meeting up with him through BriteKite.

    There is a balance that people that adopt these new services need to observe because I believe they can be isolationist and create a distinct digital divide even amongst close social circles of friends and the wider community.

    As a counter point to not being able to function without a phone, sometimes is nice to be without one. It is nice to know that you can turn off your computer and phone nothing really changes and the world won’t fall apart.

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