Tech Encounters – Oct 12th

Today’s technology: the cell phone.

Along the lines of yesterday’s post, I find myself questioning the usefulness of the cell phone.  I realize that some people think of their cell phones as indispensible.  For example, I have a brother who uses his Blackberry to connect his laptop to the internet when he goes camping. He belongs to that part of the population that agrees with many techie-gadget commercials that tell us we need to be Always On and Always Available.  I am not sure I believe this story.

I think it’s very important to a person’s health that they be able to relax and get real rest on a regular basis.  I think teenagers, whose lives are probably at least as stressful as we adults think our lives are, are especially in need of this.  Having a cell phone and being accessible by others 24/7 seems like it would only add to the level of stress that a teenager would have to deal with.  It would give immediacy to things that aren’t really urgent (as in a late night text,”did you hear what so-and-so-said?”).  It can be difficult to sort these two things out.  Being under constant stress can lead to anxiety and depression, both of which seem to be on the rise lately.

I am not trying to suggest that cell phones are evil.  But I do think that it is important to remember that they are just a tool.  Just because someone could call me at 2am because they are bored, doesn’t mean they should.  Or that I am required to answer the phone.  This speaks to the appropriate use of technology, something that I think with cell phones we as a population are still figuring out (note the issues surrounding texting-while-driving).

As an experiment, I have begun to make use of a new “feature” that my phone has developed: it likes to shut itself off at random intervals.  Rather than trade the phone in for a new model, I have been simply ignoring the phone until I want to make a call.  Often, the phone is off.  I never know how long it’s been off.  I will also leave my phone at home while running errands, or turn the ringer off for an entire weekend.  I have yet to find that I missed anything really important or pressing, but I do find that I feel more at peace.  This may not work for everyone, but I am finding that for me, appropriate use of technology means establishing clear boundaries as to when I will and will not be available to others.



  1. Robin said,

    October 26, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Do you have kids?

  2. October 26, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    No, I don’t have any kids of my own. Nieces, nephews, and lots of friends with kids, so I only get part of the story.

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