A device as small as a credit card, has more computational power than the advanced computers than a generation ago – this technological device is the mobile phone. Evidently today’s mobile phone constitutes more than just a medium for communication, it has become an important facet of everyday life so much so that it has shifted from being a technological object to a key social object that has been intricately woven into everyday life. According to the Oxford Online Dictionary, the word ‘mobile’ can be defined as, “able to move, or to be moved freely or easily.” (http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/mobile?view=uk accessed December 1 2006)
The functionality of the mobile phone depicts this definition however, the definition of the word mobile phone is fast becoming much more complex. Traditionally, the mobile phone was primarily designed, used and marketed as a business-oriented device. Today in contrast, the mobile phone is an emerging important tool for personal communication with social and cultural significance in society. The mobile phone has become a symbol in itself, an object of desire for many which enables the expression of individuality, particularly amongst adolescents.
There are multiple, overlapping consumption and uses of the mobile phone both in the social and cultural life. In sum, this essay will explore the negative societal effects of this technological device particularly towards the adolescents.
“Current statistics indicate that 2 billion people currently have subscriptions for Cellular Phones.” (http://www.web.mit.edu/comm-forum/forums/cell_phones_culture.htm accessed December 1st, 2006)
This illustrates that society has become dependant on this device designed originally solely for communication. Mobile phones have been intricately woven into our everyday lives it has created a new subculture that is heavily reliant on this technological advancement that changes, “the way people meet, mate, work, fight, buy, sell, govern and create” (Rheingold 2002. p. 18) and furthermore defy political agendas. An example of this is the overthrow of Philippines ex-President Joseph Estrada in 2001 in which the people congregated a mob through waves of text messages to topple the Estrada regime. Another example which occurred on Australian soil is the Cronulla riots in Sydney which used text messages to organize the riots; this clearly illustrates the enormity of mobile phone text messages or more commonly known as ‘SMS’ and the ever-increasing subculture of phone users. This subculture has been referred to as ‘smart-mobs.’ Rheingold suggests that a new group of ‘smart-mobs’ “consists of people who are able to act in concert even if they don’t know each other” this allows the group to gain power by numbers. This sort of congregation presents a threat to society if the power is misused.
Text messages have the power to unite individuals to fight for a cause although this form of communication is very detached from any forms of human emotions. Without a doubt the mobile phone broadens and enhances the sheer volume of communications; however does it actually improve the quality of communication?
With the introduction and increase popularity of mobile phone and text messages, physical communication and face-to-face interaction has been substituted. Some people are even using mobile phone as a tool in carrying out relationships. “Although the quantity of communication has increased through the anywhere and anytime functionality of the mobile phone, it has decreased the qualitative aspect of communication.” (Srivastava, 2005. p. 124)
Physical principle elements of human interaction such as body language and facial expression to name just a few have been replaced by text messages such as :) depicting happiness or a smile whereas ‘lol’ the abbreviations for ‘laughing out loud.’ “Some sociologists argue that texting teenagers run the risk of affecting their capacity to interact with each other on a voice or face-to-face basis: many choose to text rather than to talk, particularly in awkward or emotionally-charged situations.” (Srivastava, 2005. p. 124) Evidently text messages and mobile phones has introduced a more convenient way to communicate but in turn it has resulted in emotionless messages because of the limited characters each text message enables, this results in another dilemma/disadvantage of text messaging. “Young peer groups often differentiate themselves by the type of abbreviations they use while texting…this popularity of texting among the young is having an impact on their ability to spell and conjugate verbs.” (Haddon 2002, BBC News 2004).
The mobile phone age has had a considerable impact on the values of today’s society and in turn has created a ‘impulsive society.’ Since text messaging is a commonplace nowadays it can be seen that the need for social etiquette has become less important. Prior to this technology people were more punctual in setting appointments however setting an approximate time to meet is fast becoming standard practice with the aid of text messaging. “The habit of ‘keeping opinions open’ or the multi-meeting has also been enhanced by mobile phones.” (Srivastava, 2005. p. 124) This allowed users to decide whether to attend the meeting or not which is usually within the hour before the appointed time. This can be seen as a selfish behaviour. Another point to be considered is the use of mobile phones in public places. Numerous establishments frown upon users that instigate a conversation at a high volume disregarding other patrons. In Japan, signs have been put up prompting users to switch their phones to silent mode so that it does not disrupt others. SMS texting is the preferred alternative to voice calls in this type of situation.
Unmistakably mobile phone has affected society, nonetheless on closer inspection it can be seen that adolescents have been dominantly affected by this technological advancement further. Inconceivably adolescents use the mobile phone as a tool for communication, a fashion accessory in which aids in representing themselves and as an escape apparatus from parents. “The mobile phone has indeed become the most intimate aspect of a user’s personal sphere of object…for example keys, wallet, money etc…it gives users the impression they are constantly connected to the world outside, and therefore less alone.” (Srivastava, 2005. p. 113) Measurement of adoration and worthiness is manifested as some adolescents’ measure by the amount of text messages they receive from fellow peers. Adolescents are unhealthily getting obsessed with their mobile phones. In contrast enabling adolescents in encompassing mobile phones gives parents a false sense of security. Inclusion to this belief is that adolescents are able to screen incoming phone calls in which enable them the choice and freedom of answering the call or to simply reject it.
Interestingly, mobile phones have been suggested in aiding in shaping adolescents identities. Mobile phones have somewhat become a symbol of status. Many youth ‘show off’ their mobile phones to their peers in hopes of belonging to the ‘in’ club. They enhance their mobile phones by downloading new ringtones and wallpapers which they think suit their personality. Manufacturers have caught on to this craze and offers a variety of brightly coloured mobile covers and ‘skinz’ to match the individuals outfit at the time. Mobile phone giants have gone one step further to create ‘designer’ mobiles which feature such craziness as fur linings, embedded gems and leather coverings just to name a few. An example of this is the mobile phone manufacturer ‘Motorola’ which produced a gold version of their V3 model that features the brand name D&G, this enables users to represent themselves as highly fashionably individuals furthermore this illustrates to society that status is of great importance.
With technological devices such as the Internet and mobile phones, face-to-face interaction and communication seems to be diminishing. Clearly technological devices present society both with advantages and disadvantages, and the mobile phone is not excluded from this. The increased convenience of the mobile phone presents to society is apparent ;however on a private spectrum it affects society in various ways and continues to do so especially towards adolescents whom which have embraced this technological advancement and have embedded this device into their lifestyles. With the aid of mobile phones, society is fast becoming a society which is isolated from real human emotions and settling despondently to text messages to reflect their emotions and thoughts. This essay only scraped the surface of the pinnacle of the mobile phone phenomenon, clearly there is much more to learn from the evolving technologies that shape our future.
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