Thu, Feb

Cell phones could be nuisance. Image credit - marketwatch

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Friendship has now been replaced with contacts. As the sociologist, Richard Sennett aptly stated in his book, The Corrosion of Character, we are ...

Written By Lawerence Mantey - Many people wonder why people smoke in the first place despite several warnings from medical experts about its dangers and the harm it can cause to the body. Those who find it pleasurable ignore such warnings and still continue with the habit.

Others who are conscious of their personal wellbeing and health stay away from such practice, and will react with anger when someone disturbs them with cigarette fumes because none wants to become a second-hand smoker.

Whenever you are sitting in a meeting, a lecture or a seminar and the silence required for such moments was shattered by a ring of a cell phone, you react angrily and this comes naturally to everyone. It is the same way people react to someone smoking within a space they share in common.

To protect the public from the harm of smoking, we are familiar with the no smoking sign posts at public places and the gory pictures that have now been introduced on cigarette packets to warn those who patronise the product of its harmful effects. But who warns the public of the harmful effects of the use of cell phones?

Frankly, there are many virtues of being connected through the use of cell phones. It is good for business, it is good for social connections, and it is good for technological innovations and wealth creation. The benefits are so immense that hardly one could think of any harm connected to such technologies. Unlike smoking, it requires some effort on one part to see the dangers and protect oneself and others from them.

The irony

One of the paradoxes of a world in which we are all increasingly connected through technology is that it makes it much easier for us all to become increasingly disconnected. Because the more we are all wired and networked together, the easier it becomes for each of us to go it all alone. Friendship has now been replaced with contacts. As the sociologist, Richard Sennett aptly stated in his book, The Corrosion of Character, we are no more members of an enduring, nurturing communities, we have become nodes in ever-shifting, coldly utilitarian networks.

“But every time we reinvent ourselves, we erase the meaning that our past experiences grants us. In place of an ethical sense of ourselves as people with clear attachments, we are left with an ironic sense of ourselves as fabrications. We become unreal, virtual.”

The nuisance

Many people have experienced their speeches, presentations, lectures and discussions annoyingly interrupted by the ringing of a phone. It is very common at serious gatherings where silence is very imperative, then all of a sudden a sound of a ring tone shifts everyone out of gear. Such experiences are becoming almost like a disease in this modern age. Now the presumption is that nobody can be out anymore, you are always reachable. Out is over, now you are always in. When you are always in, you are always on. And when you are always on, you are just like a computer server. You can never stop and relax. Unlike smoking that comes with physical diseases, exposure to such stress induced by modern technology can give both physical and moral illness. A virtuous person can be forced to become a habitual liar and physically, cardiovascular diseases and ailments associated with stress can set in.

The danger

Can you imagine a person driving with a mobile phone in both hands or stuck to the ears, engrossed in conversation while driving his vehicle with his elbow? This actually happened in real life. It was a police woman who ordered the driver to pull over when she saw his grey Hyundai Santafe meandering from side to side on the road. This is a risk that can kill and maim. If it was for the one who ignored the risk, fair enough, but like the secondhand smoking, other people’s lives and wellbeing could be affected as well.

The No Smoking Sign

Cell phone and its related technologies can extend and expand one’s reach enormously. There is no two ways about this. But the enormous benefits these technologies bestow on us should not necessarily blind us from the dangers of their excessive and unbridled use.

The writer is with the Institute of Current Affairs and Diplomacy (ICAD).

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