Cell phones: Freedom of speech or public nuisance?
Posted by Lori R.
It was great to read about the use of cell phone technology this week. This was an area where I feel like I was behind in adopting. My husband had a cell phone for about five years (granted it was a very basic Nokia with a 30-minute-a-month plan but a cell phone nonetheless) before I finally got one as well. I think I resisted because I saw people with cell phones who were so dependent on them, even addicted in a way. And it affected their social skills. I remember one time while I was in college at UW-L, I drove “home” for the weekend. I went out with some friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in a long time. One friend in particular, while we sat having drinks, sat her phone on the bar and kept checking it and texting people. She was texting people who she saw on a regular basis – she hadn’t seen me in two months! I did not want to turn into that person.
Baron (2008) talks about this in her articles – cell phone etiquette (specifically in Japan but I think it can be applied to other cultures as well). Japan has created a culture where cell phone use is extremely high, yet manners and etiquette are still strongly in place. Cell phone use is strongly discouraged in public places. Are we, as Americans, just further behind in the evolution of cell phone technology use, or is our culture just “louder” and less concerned with offending others?
Although the Japanese have kept sacred the appropriate use of cell phones in public, they seem to be experiencing other negative effects from increased technology use. Caplan (2005) discusses this with respect to compulsive Internet use and decreased social skills. This is what I felt like I was experiencing with my friend that I hadn’t seen in two months! From Caplan’s study, it seems like a vicious sequence of events:
Photo source: Rott, L. (2013). Graph created in MS Word.
Despite my resistance, I ended up enjoying my cell phone – and, what joy I found with smartphones! I feel like I am much better connected and informed now. I also feel the sense of freedom Ishii (2006) describes in “Implications of Mobility: The Uses of Personal Communication Media in Everyday Life” on pages 347 & 348. I am not tied to a landline phone, I can make calls or send emails from just about anywhere, and I am able to look up just about anything I need to, whenever I need to. For instance, if my husband and I go to dinner and we’re thinking about going to a movie afterwards, I can pull up my Flixster app and we can decide before dessert arrives whether or not to go. (And, yes, I almost always order dessert as I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth. Tiramisu is my favorite.) My phone is not so much a phone (combined, my husband and I use fewer than 200 minutes a month for voice calls), but a mini mobile computer.
I have also felt the loss of freedom Ishii describes. Shortly after I got my first smartphone (the Motorola Droid), I had to travel to Chicago for a conference for work. I had traveled for work before, but it was previously as more of a sales support person and I usually attended the conference with a sales manager or sales director who took care of corresponding with the home office and customers while we were away. However, I had recently been promoted to an account manager and was traveling with someone who was very new to the company so I had more responsibility – in my job function and as a mentor to the other employee. So, I needed to stay in the loop while out of town and set up my phone to access my work email.
This worked great during the conference. I was able to respond to client emails and take care of issues that otherwise may have had to wait until I returned in five days. I know this is very common practice now, but, at the time, this was revolutionary for me.
I kept the work email “hooked up” after the conference ended. That lasted about a month before I said enough was enough. I’d be sitting at home with my husband and I’d hear that tell-tale chime on my phone that differentiated a work email from my personal email. I felt compelled to check it. Finally, I decided I needed to leave work at work. Besides, my company wasn’t paying for my cell phone or data package. Was it really necessary to be THAT accessible?
Now that I’m using social media more lately and connecting with my clients in more online venues, I may be starting to change my mind about accessibility. Maybe.
* * *
P.S. An update for anyone who is wondering about my situation with my cable/Internet provider…so, I posted a complaint on their FB page and had a response in 24 hours. Upon the social media manager’s recommendation, I emailed a formal complaint. Communicating just via email over a period of about six days, I had all of my programming fixed (I was missing 20 channels) without having to upgrade for extra cost, my discounts are still in place and I also had an error on my bill corrected. I did not have to sit on the phone for an hour (which I’ve done before) or talk to a variety of customer service reps (they have different ones for different services and none of them talk to each other very well). Victory! I went back to the company’s FB page and made sure to put a very positive comment out there for them. The power of social media!
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.