Pros and Cons of Constant Connection

It is not false to claim that humans are social beings. Human beings thrive on the idea of community, and tend to improve in many aspects of their life when they are around friends, family and loved ones. Often times, people will find themselves with heightened and improved mental states and better physical health when they are actively and regularly engaging with other people. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Humans are inherently social. We are not special in this way; it is hard to think of any animal for whom the regulation of social behaviour is not important” (Young).

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This is why the invention of the mobile telephone is so important when trying to understand how our society functions today. In April of 1973, when Martin Cooper, a researcher for phone company Motorola, made the first mobile telephone call from a handheld device to inform a rival telephone company that he was making this call from a mobile phone, not a single soul knew the impact that the mobile phone would soon have on how our society and the world as a whole would function. In the beginning, the first mobile phone only allowed for 30-minutes of conversation until it had to charge for around 10 hours.

Photo by Neil Soni on Unsplash

When Motorola finally released their version of the mobile phone to the public in 1983, it could only store 30 phone numbers and cost $3995. Understandably, these cell phones did not seem to be very popular with the general public because of the cost/benefit ratio. Sure, people were astounded by the fact that they could now call their loved ones on the go and speak with people thousands of miles away, but a very small percentage of people had the resources to be able to pay for such an expensive luxury.

Nowadays, over 36 years later, more people own cell phones than own toilets (Worstall). Cell phones have increased exponentially in capability and have decreased dramatically in price to be able to accommodate the hoards of people that are so addicted to their cell phones, that it is now possible to be diagnosed with a ‘Cell-Phone Addiction’. Everyday, people use their phone for banking, to contact friends and family, to online shop, to play games, to share on social media and even to keep track of their medical history. Cell phones have become such an integrated part of modern-day society that if they were to just disappear or begin to no longer work, there is no telling what might happen to society.

Many scholars and literature outlets have written about the dangers and complications that cell phones have put on our lives and the ways in which we communicate. As Forbes puts it, “ for young people who have grown up with [cell phones], it’s not a novelty, it’s just a way of life. It may take bigger pushes to help them see just how addictive phones can be, and how damaging to their mental health” (Walton). It is not uncommon to see scientific research studies on the actual implications and repercussions that cell phones have had on our communications skills, which also affects our mental health. In a 2018 study, BMC psychiatry found that, “The positive correlation between smartphone addiction and depression is alarming. Reasonable usage of smartphones is advised, especially among younger adults and less educated users who could be at higher risk of depression” (Alhassan).

It is no secret that depression can cause a lack of communication with those around you. This would mean that if cell phone addiction is causing depression, cell phones are one of the main culprits to blame for why the way we communicate has changed so much over the last 40 years. Although, not everyone sees the cell phone as a negative energy in the world of mass communication. The Pittsburg Gazette points out that, “cell phones have good points too” (Radin). The article explains how cell phones can be good for our mental health, and are a positive influence on the system by which humans communicate. “You can always be in touch during an emergency,” (Radin). Some studies have even found that cell phones might be a positive influence on your mental health and the way in which you socialize and communicate with others, depending on how you use it.

A study by Harvard found that, “Cell phone use stimulates brain activity” (Skerrett). Because of the way that the telephone has transformed into a device in which so much of everyone’s daily life depends on it, many people are beginning to realize that human communication has been forever changed. Smithsonian magazine writes that, “What was once an organic process that occurred in a more personal manner, the imposition of a new form of communication has redefined the way in which humans build relationships and determine social rank” (Smithsonian).

The original cell phone, used only for making calls, had no implications of determining how valued a person feels, like the amount of Instagram likes on a modern day cell phone can. It isn’t difficult to notice how communication has changed due to the introduction of the smartphone into society. It is almost as if we have created an entirely new language to adapt to the ways in which the cell phone has changed the way we communicate with each other.

People communicate through likes on Instagram and retweets on Twitter. The number of likes equals how much validation you are receiving from your peers which is extremely damaging to the aspect of human communication. It is not uncommon for the younger generation to resolve to what many call, “ghosting” which is another damaging consequence that the smartphone has put on human communication. Cell phones have given people the ability to “ghost” someone, which means to cut all communication by blocking their phone number and social media accounts in order to be able to end any possible contact with this person. It is extremely harsh and if used at all, should be used carefully and sparingly. Before the cell phone, it was virtually impossible to ‘ghost’ someone, without quite literally avoiding them everywhere you go, or just moving.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Cell phones have given us the ability to change the way we communicate with the click of a button. With one simple click we can choose to be alerted anytime someone wants to communicate with us, we can talk to someone all the way across the world, or we can even literally block someone from partaking in any aspect of our lives, which in many ways, is completely dependent on the internet now.

I know from personal experience, it feels almost impossible to be without my phone. What if someone needs to contact me? What if there is an emergency? What if I need to send my friend a picture of a squirrel I saw on campus? When these thoughts pervade the inner workings of my brain, sometimes it is helpful to remember that people are made to communicate with each other in person. There was in fact a time before cell phones when people would talk face-to-face every time they wanted to engage in social interaction. The danger now is that we forget that there was a time that cell phones didn’t exist, and we become completely dependent on something we created, thus creating a one way communication. No longer face to face, but only face to screen.

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Kaitlyn Hart

Kaitlyn Hart

Just trying to become the next Gloria Steinem.