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Sara McManamy-Johnson's Column: We led different lives minus cellphones
Dec 14, 2012 4:00 pm
When I was in high school, a student could be expelled if she brought a cell phone on campus. The rationale, according to the school system, was that if a teenager had a cell phone or pager, he had to be up to no good.
A few months ago, my husband – who works in retail – encountered a woman buying a cell phone for her kindergarten-aged child.
I’m not going to say exactly how many years have passed since I was in high school, but I will say that it hasn’t been all that many.
In a relatively short span of time, cell phones have evolved from clunky status symbols to fairly ubiquitous parts of daily life in America. Sure, there’s a bit of prestige involved with showing off your shiny, new next-gen Iphone, but you no longer have to be driving a BMW to do so.
Cell phones have become so indispensable to so many people, myself included, that you have to wonder sometimes how we survived before cleverly disguised cell towers dotted every other peak and valley.
I recently bought my mom an Iphone, and I was teaching her some of the basics about using it. During our discussion about texting, she had an epiphany.
“Everybody’s all up-in-arms about kids texting in class,” she said. “I remember when I was in school, we would pass notes back-and-forth to each other…It was the same thing!”
Parents joke about their teenaged children, who are so attached to their cell phones that they sleep with them on their pillows. And yes, I have a friend – not a teenager – who does just that.
When I was a teenager, before I thought about ever having a cell phone, my parents caved and installed a separate phone line in our house for me. For some reason, they wanted to use the phone, too. If I couldn’t reach someone when I tried to call them, I waited 30 minutes and tried again.
Before seemingly everyone had a cell phone, no one was accessible 24/7. If someone called during dinner, you let the answering machine pick up and you returned the call after dinner. Now, if you let your cell phone go to voicemail during dinner, that call is immediately followed by an urgent text that you just have to follow-up on immediately. Everyone is on-call 24/7 now, and few people even realize it because it’s become so second-nature.
Cell phones are fantastic inventions. That dark country road that you’re driving on at 2 a.m. is much less ominous when you know you can just lock your doors and call for roadside assistance if you get a flat tire. Parents can breathe easier knowing that their teenagers can be found with just a phone call (or a nifty app) when they are out past curfew. Cell phones make life so much more convenient.
But there was life before cell phones. We survived that life back in the olden days, and as attached as I am to my cell phone now, sometimes I miss the good-old days.