Searching the Haight for Signs of Life

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Cellular Age

What did we do before we were blessed (cursed) with the cell phone? Those little chirping beasties that permeate everything we do and how we do it. They connect us in real-time. They make it a hell of a lot easier to find friends for a rendezvous in the middle of a debauched Saturday night. They interrupt movies and classes with their shrill incessant whines, but hopefully it’s the emergency room doctor getting the call at least some of the time.

They are also kind of a social pulse. You can feel your own social pulse through your cell phone. Who’s calling you? Do they want a favor or just to chat? Does it go off over and over on your birthday? Are people always calling you because they need you at work? You can feel the ebb and tide of your relationships in buzzing and beeping. A name will appear constantly for months, calling you all the time, and then nothing. Sometimes a relationship ends, and at least for me, my cell phone list gets a little shorter.

And if you can pay close attention, if you really want to be neurotic about it and sort through the mess of the cell phone social network, then you can start paying attention to the calls that your friends accept and decline. You can tell who’s on the outs with who, who fits where into everyone’s ladder of friends, who’s popular, and who’s not. And it’s just about enough to drive the world crazy.

There are many unintended consequences of the cellular revolution. Sure, it makes it easier to pick someone up at the airport, or to call the sys admin when the network goes down. But conversely, perhaps, cell phones ruin our accountability and feed into the instant gratification complex that plagues the modern world. If you’re going to be late… why hurry? Just call ahead, and they can keep busy until you get there. And you don’t have to bother paying the sys admin to be on call. Just another annoyance to ride their belt. It’ll never come up until it does.

The last time I lost my cell phone, I realized exactly how much I depend on it. So it goes.


Post a Comment

<< Home