It is well known to those acquainted with me that I hate cell phones. Although my dislike is a bit more passionate than the average bear, I think it may be fairly agreed to, by even the most tech savy, that the cell phone may possibly be among the most annoying invention of mankind. Once, many years ago, I and several other people in line at the gas station shuddered in horror as we were subjected to the auditory assault of a woman on a cell phone asking her doctor for the results of her pregnancy test “because I ain’t had no period yet”. We can all count numerous times traveling in our car at the speed limit, only to be held up by an oblivious cell phone user traveling 20 miles below the speed limit (maybe it was you?).
A small portion of my argument, and admittedly a rather petty one, lies within the idea of cell phones being an object of cliché. To be truly unique, one must NOT have a cell phone and one must certainly not have an iphone. I find it boring to talk about the newest cell phone models and their “features “ and “gigabytes” and “apps”. In an admittedly terrible fit of judgmentalism I often assign a bit of braindead-ed-ness to those individuals we all know who spend their days and nights (and certainly car trips) braying into the small box like so many opposable thumbed donkeys. However, I shall spend very little time on this as it is simply “my problem” on this point. I have issues with being “cliché” and it causes me great problems. Perhaps, not being “cliché” is my own personal coping with existential anxiety, a slick way of resolving the pain associated with my own impending and ever nearing inevitable death. A way to convince myself, “you’re different, you’re NOT like all the others…surely you will escape and live eternally”. Again, that’s my issue. I want to mention it, possibly out of sheer pessimism and dislike for that horrid box but I won’t beat a dead horse (perhaps a dead braying donkey but not a horse).
My real beef with the portable, rectangular idiot box comes from concern as a therapist and philosopher of being. Cell phone use can be an addiction just like anything else and unfortunately, I believe it could be easily stated that a large percentage of America and the world are consumed with said addiction. The problem with any addiction (there’s a problem with addiction?) is that it separates us from ourselves. In all my years of being a psychotherapist, I have never heard a single person who was addicted to something, not eventually say some version of this: “I use (blank) so I don’t have to feel (blank)”. “I use crack so I don’t have to feel the pain of the sexual abuse I suffered as a child” “I use alcohol so I don’t have to feel ashamed that I’m gay”. When a client finally gets to the point that they can be honest with themselves, this is nearly always the realization. Although vastly more complicated, addiction is a coping method that allows one not to feel. When one ceases feeling, one becomes a robot. When one becomes a robot, it becomes impossible to navigate ones self in a world filled with humans.
My argument is simple: Although it would seem that society at large has become more connected through the use of technology, I believe that with nearly every phone call, we are more distanced from ourselves and therefore more distanced from each other. The cell phone is an extension of the television (and sometimes IS a television) that allows us to have a distraction from our thoughts. A way to “disconnect” and “go offline” in an emotional manner, while having something entertaining to tickle our fancy and keep us busy and distracted while we do so. A way to fill our heads with mindless chatter rather than simply listening to our inner dialogue. It is a way to avoid rather than be with ourselves.
Obviously, I’m being a bit dramatic on this issue. The same argument could be made for a million different things: video games, the internet, religion, Oprah Winfrey. I don’t believe the world should be rid of cell phones. I own a cell phone and use it quite often. I’ve had many deep and meaningful conversations on it and in the case of some clients I have used it to literally talk someone out of taking their own life. As hard as it is to admit, I’ve even been toying around with the idea of purchasing the root cause of all evil in the world: The iPhone. Although the title may suggest it, I’m not against cell phones, and I’m not anti-technology. I am against the deleterious and emotionally numbing effects that technology has on us. (I am also against corporations spending billions of dollars in the ongoing and successful convincing that you need, not only to have one, but the most up to date model but that’s a blog for another day). I’m guilty of some of the cell phone related offenses I’ve mentioned. However, it is my hope that I and others can one day use the cell phone and other technology in a way that enriches without distracting from and sedating us in our emotional world.
The unrelated book recommendation is kinda related this time: The Revolution of Hope, toward a humanized technology by Erich Fromm
Unrelated song is below!