Practical Technology

for practical people.

Cell Phones: End Of Civilization Or Device Of The Devil?


If I hear one more cell phone ring in a theater, I will kill someone … and be found guilty of justifiable homicide by any jury of my peers.

Ever notice how as a society, we’re just plain ruder than we used to be? I have. Somehow, people assume that because they’ve got Nokia’s best and finest on their belt, they can conduct business anywhere, anytime.

Uh, pardon me, no you can’t. You’re not in a soundproof bubble; you’re talking over the movie I just paid $8.50 to see. I’m also none too fond of them in restaurants. I really don’t care to hear someone else’s personal business when I am munching on my salad. Do you?

Ever notice how everyone talks louder on a cell? I have. Mea culpa, though. I’ve done it. However, I turn my phone off at dinner unless I know I’ve got an urgent call coming in. OK, as a dad, I understand the need to be available for the babysitter. But, come on, you can head to the lobby before telling me, and everyone else in earshot, where little Timmy’s diaper rash ointment can be found.

Still, in a theater, at a concert–get over yourself. If you’re actually expecting life and death situations, stay home or get a vibrating cell phone.

Of course, the real problem is thinking that I should be interrupted at any time by an urgent call. As a journalist, being ready to pursue a story at the drop of a hat is part of the job. But, I know that I take that too seriously and it gets in the way of the fun parts of my life. But it seems to me that everyone is driven by the notion that their job is urgent and ever present in their life. I don’t know about you, but I see this as just another example of how technology, instead of freeing us, has shackled us even more tightly to work.

Remember when companies were reluctant to let people work from their homes for fear that they wouldn’t work as hard? Some people doubtlessly still find Jerry Springer more interesting than work, but most employers have picked up on the fact that even people who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool workaholics (ah, me, for example) will act like one given the right home-office accessories.

The enchantment of instant communications has proven a siren song for far too many. If you fall prey to it, you’re likely to lose way too much of your life to your job. And, ah folks, I make that mistake all the time, and it’s not one that I really want anyone else to make. Life is too short.

OK, if you’ve got a big merger deal where every minute counts, that’s urgent. But come on, most of the time, most of us don’t live urgent lives. It just seems that way because cell phones, beepers and the like make it easy for us to feel like life is crashing in on us all the time. We need to learn–not just for the sake of people around us, but for our own sake–the difference between urgent and important.

First published in Sm@rt Partner

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