Blog Post 1: Enslaved by our Cell Phones

My experiences with wireless communication are somewhat different than what one might expect from someone of the current youth demographic.  I didn’t acquire a cell phone until senior year of high school (2008); I relied on dial-up internet until I moved out of my parents’ house (2009); and I didn’t sign up for Facebook until my freshman year of college (also 2009).  With truly only an infantile amount of experience in this new world of communication, I feel as though I’m perfectly able to sympathize with the stories Sherry Turkle shares in her introduction to Alone Together.

The first anecdote, which covers the story of a mother conducting interviews for potential nannies, confronts the reader in a food-for-thought fashion with the necessity of wireless communication.  A roommate, only fifteen feet away from potential interviewee Ronnie, chooses to communicate via text messaging rather than simply knocking on her door (Turkle, 2).  I myself was made the subject of such attempts at communication when, on several occasions, my friend would inform me that he’s arrived at my house via text message instead of using what he referred to as the “archaic” doorbell.

I believe Turkle is attempting to argue that, within the realm of contemporary communications technology, convenience (e.g. texting, Twitter, Facebook) naturally gives way to social dependency (“I live my life on my Blackberry” (15)).  In other words, when faster or more convenient methods of communication become available, there arises a social pressure to use those methods.  This pressure then governs the acceptance or rejection of those who do or don’t keep up with the times.  Yet what I noticed in particular about Turkle’s argument was that the uses intended for these new methods of wireless communication have backfired upon themselves.  For example, texting can provide instant yet concise snippets of information that bypass the need for longwinded conversations.  However, the growing dependency upon this new form of wireless communication (as I explained above) has pushed texting to the forefront of daily interaction with the result that, ironically, longwinded conversations now make up the bulk of the texting world.

Albeit a slightly depressing progression, “Snail Mail” and other such slower forms of communication have been pushed aside for this new wave of wireless connectivity.   It gives me pause to think that, one day, technology will once again advance to the point where my children will wonder why I’m still using “that old Facebook site”.

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One Response to Blog Post 1: Enslaved by our Cell Phones

  1. cstabile says:

    Excellent concluding point about generational shifts in technology use. When I first started teaching, students primarily used email to communicate with one another, but now email is really the medium through which university business is conducted. Students IM or text or facebook each other. But as Staci pointed out in class, our sample for comparing what’s more “authentic” to what is less “authentic” is often the span of our experience. Turkle implied that somehow yelling to someone through a closed door is a more authentic and less disruptive form of communication thatn texting that same person. She also suggests that the telephone is more authentic than texting. Why? Mainly, I suspect because of her familiarity with telephony — the fact that that’s the form of communication teens used when she was growing up. This is a long way of saying that I think experience is a poor substitute for research and that, as we discussed in class, Turkle relies on anecdotes that support her argument rather than any other kind of data or information. I’m not saying that the way we communicate isn’t changing — and that it isn’t changing at a speed that may be historically unprecedented — but we need to be more balanced in our approach to understanding that change.

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