The Cell Phone: Both a Blessing and a Curse
December 5th 2008 07:48
Cell Phones: A Revolution in Communication
Writers understand the importance of communication perhaps more than many "ordinary" people do. Yet, writing is but one mode of communication. Despite the revolutionary advances that have created the worldwide network known as the Internet—which allows us to send the written word (and many other types of media) halfway across the world—still another interwoven web of networks has further expanded the reach of everyday people, simplifying and yet complicating our lives at the same time: the system of communication known as the cellular telephone network.
Convenience vs. Annoyance
Cell phones offer so much convenience to our busy, often-hectic lives that it would be difficult to imagine life without them. Yet, along with that convenience come certain annoyances (from tiny irritations to infuriating distractions)—and even serious potential dangers—that should certainly give us pause. At the very least, these unpleasant cell-phone realities should make us pause long enough—and in mid-conversation, I might add—to consider the consequences of thoughtless, irresponsible, and downright dangerous cell phone use.
Thoughtless Cell Phone Use
Most of us have been at least mildly irritated by the thoughtlessness of cell phone users who ignore everyone else around them while speaking loudly into that harmless looking little device they have glued to their ear. If we were totally honest, of course, many of us would have to admit to having actually been that thoughtless cell phone user at one time or another. Yet, it somehow seems so different when it's our conversation—which we all know is so much more important…necessary…excusable than the other guy's…
(You don't think that mindset we so innocently display could possibly be more widespread than we realize, do you? That it might actually contribute to the problem the other guy has being polite to others while in the vicinity of his cell phone? Hmmm…Certainly gets one thinking, doesn't it?)
Cell Phones: A Wonderful Invention
Cell phones are a wonderful invention—no question about it. They make it possible for stranded people to get help. They alert first responders when emergencies occur. They reassure us that our loved ones are safe while they're traveling far from home. They enable us to call ahead when traffic snags, preventing us from getting to an appointment on time. They even let us find each other at the mall or in the supermarket, or call one another with that indispensable dinner ingredient we've somehow forgotten to put on the shopping list. Yet, to one particular segment of society, they do much more than the above, improving the lives of this group in a far more fundamental way.
A Group for Whom Text Messaging Equals New Freedom
Modern cell phones allow the Deaf to communicate directly with one another and with the hearing with more freedom and portability than ever before possible, through text messaging while on the go instead of being limited to using a non-portable TTY device or having to resort to the long, drawn-out process of communicating through a relay operator via computer.
This new method of communicating via cell phone is, for the Deaf Community, a totally unprecedented capability made possible because mobile technology has advanced beyond mere voice communications. It opens brand new vistas for an entire cross-section of individuals who are every bit as talented, intelligent, and creative as their hearing counterparts, yet who just happen to be deaf. It empowers a segment of society which, as a result of modern cell phone technology, is now able to transact business in the field—including running their own businesses, managing employees, and coordinating and overseeing projects via the simple method of text messaging. (And you thought only your teens used text messaging to chat with their friends in class.)
When Cell Phones Pose a Hazard
For all their positive attributes, when used irresponsibly, cell phones can cause real danger. Using a cell phone while driving—particularly when fumbling with its keypad, Talk, or End buttons, flipping it open, or holding it while chatting and driving with only one hand—can pose a serious hazard to driver and passengers, other motorists, and the totally unprotected (and often unsuspecting) pedestrian in the crosswalk who actually expects the driver heading her way to see and obey the stop sign when he reaches the corner.
Unfortunately, due to the distraction of the cell phone, this too often doesn't happen—and this is one reason the State of California passed a "hands-free cell phone while driving" law, which went into effect July 1, 2008. Beginning on that day, all cell phone users were (and are) required to use a hands-free cell phone setup—and after my personal experience with one such distracted driver, that wasn't soon enough for me.
A Distracted Driver Is a Dangerous Driver
As I stepped off the curb one sunny California day, I noticed a car approaching the intersection at a moderate rate of speed. I looked through the vehicle's windshield, preparing to make eye contact with the driver, as has always been my custom. With a couple of thousand pounds of metal between the driver and me, I've always felt a nagging need to make sure the driver whose vehicle I'm about the step in front of has noticed me.
(To be honest, I've never understood the people who step out in front of all manner of moving vehicles without so much as a glance in the direction of the metallic monster relentlessly bearing down on them. It's obvious that they believe that having the legal right of way will somehow protect them from danger. But, I always figure that living to see another day is far better than having them put on my gravestone, "She had the right of way.")
As I prepared to step in front of the vehicle, I could tell right away that something was wrong. Not only was the driver not looking at me, but he had a cell phone glued to his ear—and he was not slowing down. As the alarm bells began going off in my head, I had just enough time to jump back out of the way and barely avoided being hit by the inattentive driver, who braked suddenly when he realized what was happening and sheepishly shrugged his apology at me through the closed window. With a rather less than genial expression, I motioned the driver to go first. I wasn't about to step in front of his vehicle again.
Like most other tools that have the potential to make our lives better, cell phones can be used or abused. They can help and improve or distract, annoy, and even destroy. The choice is ours.
Help fight cell phone abuse: Please phone responsibly.
This post is my entry into the Word Sell Win Up to $500 Blogging About Cell Phone Users and Abusers! Contest.
Did you enjoy this post? Have any cell phone horror stories of your own to share? Or maybe you've seen a cell phone save a life or do some good. We'd love to hear your story!
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