Wednesday, March 07, 2007

the negative effects of cellular communication technology on human behavior

(It’s 7am and you're driving to work. Who are you calling?)

The widespread use of mobile communication devices has negatively affected the human race in three distinct ways. 1) It has further destroyed the present tense by decreasing time spent in the moment. 2) It has systematically reduced self-reliance. 3) It has decreased efficiency in the area of time management.

All spaces can be categorized as either destination spaces or circulation spaces. Destination spaces are defined as places where actives of human interest occur. Circulation spaces are the areas in between destination spaces that serve as transit corridors between them. Your kitchen where you cook and your bedroom where you sleep are destination spaces. The hall that connects them is a circulation space. Circulation can be enjoyed but the point is always to get somewhere you are not. The goal is to be somewhere else in the future. Cell phone use further increases the amount of time spent circulating as it transforms destination spaces into circulation ones. It removes the caller from his intended task, be it cooking or sleeping, and transports him to an alternative reality if only for a brief time. Repeated transports diminish the capacity for the individual to focus and enjoy the task at hand. I once listened to a friend on her cell phone chatter to her sister about something she could have told her later that night at dinner. I realized she was missing a beautiful sunset as well as the opportunity to talk to me in person. She didn't have such a realization.

Large emergencies are often mitigated by someone’s ability to call for help. Cell phones increase the ability of an individual to call louder and further for assistance. Smaller problems however are often the tools by which we learn to negotiate the unpredictable world in which we live. Without exposure to these trials, people lose the opportunities they need to learn skills that will come in handy in the future when other problems arise. Reliance on mobile phones therefore can lead to a reduction in general competence in an ever increasing population of specialists. Our world is still far too random to rely too heavily on others for everything. Increased volatility in our world will further necessitate the ability to think fast and solve problems in person. Someone once told me I wouldn’t feel this way if I had ever called the authorities from the scene of an emergency. I responded that I once suppressed a neighbor’s apartment fire with only an extinguisher. There were plenty of people with cell phones calling for assistance. What was equally or even more important was someone with the knowledge of what to do and the willingness to do in the moment.

The idea that cell phones increase time efficiently is a myth perpetuated by specific situations that do not parallel an individual's overall use of time. In certain circumstances, time is saved by the ability to call for directions or add to a grocery list but what is left unexamined is the overall effect this ability has on the time management skills of those who rely heavily on this capability. People dependent on cell phones begin to give less consideration to those details that allow them to operate in a smooth and efficient manner. The ability to talk with virtually anyone at virtually any time causes individuals not to consider prudent planning. This leads to more delays that would have been eliminated through thoughtful planning. The occasional delay that taught someone to be prudent with her use of time is eliminated. Time lost to subsequent delays caused by reliance on this ability occurs in small increments but when totaled up, exceeds the amount of time saved by cell phones. Net loss of time occurs.

Cellular technology has reduced overall focus on life in the moment. It has diluted our ability to do for ourselves and has replaced effective time management with constant, chaotic communication. Throw the damn things in the trash.

On a personal note, I will get a cell phone. I am however waiting for one that can call, photograph, video, broadcast radio, play recorded music, access the internet, allow me to send and receive emails and has a range of more than 95% of my daily geography. An alarm, sweet ring tones and the ability to make a mean omelet should go without saying.


baloghblog said...

I agree with you 100%. Cell phones move a persons focus from the present to "the future". They make what is happening around the person irrelevant, only what is going to happen next becomes important. Same with blackberries. It is amazing to me the number of execs that I saw on a recent business trip, using blackberries at formal events, and during meetings. Again, focused on what will be happening next, not the current event or task at hand.

You can hear it in the inane conversations that make up a fair percentage of all cell phone minutes, "Hi, yes, I'm on my way home, and just have to stop by so-and-so's, see you in 10 minutes." You could almost bet on it that the person who put you in bodily harm was having this type of conversation, vs. say solving world conundrums.

To be sure, there have been times where a cell phone has been invaluable to me. I just try to remember my thoughts above, before I call to say, "I'll see you in five minutes, I'm just finishing up grocery shopping."

Gryphon said...

I'm not convinced that centralized communications systems (or ANY centralized system for that matter) which rely on a large consumer base with plenty of discretionary income will remain viable in a peak oil/economic collapse scenario.

One thing I do know that will not disappear in such an event is the electromagnetic spectrum -- and radios of some sort will always be around. Thus, I've started studying for my Technician class Amateur Radio license which I hope to test for sometime this summer. I'll still be able to make phone calls, chat and transfer data, video, photos and more with operators around the world, even when the Internet and cell phones no longer work on the scale we're currently accustomed to. And hey, morse code is no longer a requirement!

More details on amateur radio at

king said...

in NET ,Calls are calculated based on 1-minute increments. Any fraction of a minute will be rounded up to the next full minute.
All rates are deducted from your account balance according to the rates for the country you are calling

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Abhas said...

While I agree with your comments about the mobile tech I am also a bit concerned about what's in store for the future..

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The cellular communication is so important in the world, I would like to change my cellphone but in my country the service is so bad, I would like to live in other country!22dd

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Hi there, You have done a fantastic job. It cannot have effect in reality, that is what I consider.keep it up guy. I always stand with you.

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