North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

April 10, 2013

Danielle Cater: Cell phones make life better — right?

By Danielle Cater
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — It was 40 years ago last Wednesday when the first call was made on a cell phone. Where has the time gone? There was no way for the inventors of the wireless phone to know just what all they had tapped into when they made their invention.

But in less than 40 years, the cell phone became a device that we cannot live without.

Go ahead, mock me for saying that. Then go a whole week without using your phone. I guarantee that you will be agreeing with me by day three.

We have become so dependent on these little devices that we will drive to the ends of the earth to get our phones. If you leave your phone at home and head off to work, it’s a monumental decision to choose wether to turn around and be “that person” who can’t live without their phones, or just be miserable and worried all day without it. Of course, I’m not going to even act like I haven’t turned my car around many times to get my phone.

You see, our phones are so much more than phones now. It is our connection to the entire world. We use our phones to call people, text people and now we even handle all of our email accounts on these hand-held devices.

That is one of the reasons that we are never truly disconnected from work or play, because we are constantly checking emails and Facebook throughout the day to make sure we aren’t missing any pertinent information.

Have we fallen so far as a society that we don’t even require face-to-face meetings anymore? I believe that may be the case.

When I first began working for the newspaper, we had a lot of foot traffic in our doors. People brought articles, pictures, documents and stories to our office for us to type up or scan in, but now, we can email them right from our phones, so why would we ever set foot in the office of the newspaper?

We would rather take pictures with our phones than with our cameras. If you don’t believe that last statement, think about the last time you took your camera to a function. Now, think of the last time you took a picture on your phone at a function. See, it’s the truth.

Just last night, I was out with some friends of mine and we all took a picture with our phones. Within two minutes, we had text the picture to a couple of friends, posted it on Facebook and had responses of people’s thoughts on the photo. Yes, we are more connected than ever thanks to cell phones. But yes, we are more disconnected personally than we have ever been as a society.

Many families will sit together at a dinner table or in a living room and never make eye contact with each other. How many times have you looked up from your phone just to notice that everyone else in the room is looking on their phones? So we may be together physically, but mentally we are a thousand miles away. That’s why we implemented a rule around our household. After 6 p.m., we put our phones on silent and give them a quick glance if we are waiting to hear from someone. But for the most part, we try to stay mentally connected with our little family while we are together.

Under my roof, I am the worst about having my phone in my hand at all times. My father has gone so far as to call it my “little god.” Yes, he probably has a point there. I would be completely devastated if something happened to my phone and I believe that if you are that dependent on anything, it has become like a god to you.

So there—I am addicted to my phone (like most people). If we started a support group, I would expect to see each of your faces there weekly. Our phones have so much information that we use daily, that we would be completely lost without them. When is the last time you actually memorized someone’s phone number? No, we just start typing a name and our phones magically display the name, number and even a picture sometimes.

We keep all of our music on our phones, all of our best websites on our browsers and all of our favorite pictures. No wonder our phones are our gods; they contain everything we hold dear to our hearts on them.

That’s exactly why we have got to be intentional in putting the phones down and picking up conversations with the people who are physically in the room with us. That phone can’t hold your babies when they need you. That phone can’t kiss your husband good night. That phone can’t cook your dinner from scratch for the family. So at some point in the week, purpose in your heart that you are going to set down the phone and pick up the hand of that family member you have been neglecting.

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the greatness that has come from the 40 years of cell phones, but don’t let that take your eyes off of the purpose of your life. Phones have come a long way since their start. They went from big, bulky bag phones with huge antennas to sleek, 4-ounce card-sized phones with full access to the Internet.

But don’t let this advancement in phones become a pitfall on our society. Pay attention to what matters most. It’s not what you post on Facebook that makes the world go around, it’s what you really do with the time you are here.