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A Cell Phone? Never for Me

Someday soon, I may be the last man in America without a cell phone. To those who see cell phones as progress. I say they aggravate noise pollution and threaten our solitude. The central idea of cell phones is that you are connected to almost everyone and everything at all times. The trouble is that cell phones assault your peace of mind no matter what you do. If you turn them off, why have one? You just irritate anyone who might call. If they are on and no one calls, you are irrelevant, unloved or both. If everyone calls you are a basket-case.

Of course, cell phones have productive uses. For those constantly on the road (salesmen, repair technicians and reporters), they are the godsend. The same is true for critical workers (doctors, fire fighters...) needed at a moment’s notice. Otherwise benefits seem doubtful or overstated. Mobiles for teens were sold as a way for parents to keep tabs on children. That works – up to a point. The point is where your kids switch off the phones. Two of my teens have cell phones (That was Mom’s idea, she has one, too). But, whenever I want them most, their phones are off.

Then there is sheer nuisance. Private conversations have gone public. We’ve all been subjected to someone else’s sales meeting, dinner reservation or dating problems. How valuable is all this chitchat? The average conversation lasts two to three minutes. Surely many could be postponed or forgotten.

Cell phones pretend to increase your freedom while actually stealing it. People so devoted to staying interconnected are kept in a perpetual state of anxiety because they may have missed some more significant memo, rendezvous, bits of news or gossip. All this is the wave of the future or more precisely the present. Cell phones are becoming an irresistible force, but I am determined to resist.

Newsweek, August 23, 2004

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