24 August 2008

How cell phones hurt communities

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Hiker
Benjamin Dangl of AlterNet reflects on how cell phone use has crept into every aspect of daily life, ironically weakening the basic human communication that is the fabric of any community.

As Slate commented in his Adbusters essay, “It seems the more ‘connected’ we are, the more detached we become.”

Back on the hiking trail in Spain I saw this play out in a myriad of ways. Though I was experiencing cell-freedom, throughout the trip, I found myself surrounded by people, mainly Europeans, on their cell phones, texting and talking with concerned family members and friends throughout the day. People were torn between developing friendships with strangers and calling up or texting old friends and family they already knew. Similarly, back in the U.S., I often found myself checking my messages or making a phone call rather than striking up a conversation with a stranger at the post office or bus stop. In this way, I was cutting off potentially eye-opening conversations and new friendships. I also walked around, talking on my cell phone, ignoring my surroundings and neighborhood the same way that Italian hiker did that morning in the mountains. If we can’t talk to face to face with our neighbors, or notice the world we’re walking through now, where will cell phone use take our communities and families five years down the road?

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