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Thursday
May222003

Mobile Phone Tidbits

Nokia 3360I'm not exactly the poster boy for mobile phone use, at least as the mobile phone companies probably look at it. I have a Nokia 3360 on Cingular and I like it, more or less. The truth is, I hardly use the thing. Of course it's handy when traveling, but on a daily basis it's turned off, since I'm generally near a stationery phone at home or the office.

For a little while I used the mobile package on my Nokia, to connect my Clié via InfraRed but because I am always near an Internet cable connection, I didn't find it a great value for the additional $5 per month it cost me. However, for travel, the mobile phone is invaluable, since I can call my wife and have her return the call on her Nokia for free (her plan includes free long distance). On my Palm DevCon California trip, our bill for a few hours of talk time was a measly $1.50!

Even with travel usage figured in, I hardly use my mobile phone. I've decided that I'm just not a typical mobile phone user.

Still, I am a mobile-oriented person, so I am interested in the role mobile phones play in our culture, even if I don't use mine very much. Over the past few weeks I've gathered a few interesting articles on mobile phones to share with you:

Mobile Phones Enslave Brits
First is the article Britons are enslaved by the mobile telephone from the Times Online (UK) about studies done in Britain showing everyday Britons are enslaved by their mobile phones, rather than freed by them. I found it interesting to read that dependence on the mobile phone was extrapolated as a form of control, and gave users a sense of power over situations. Some respondents even felt their mobile improved their self identity. Older users felt some of this but it seems that the younger generation say their mobile phones are "an extension of their physical being". Wow.

Kids Need SMS for Self Esteem
Related to the Times article was this one from NewMediaAge, suggesting that school kids get self esteem boosts from receiving SMS messages. Key quote:

"Children are so obsessed that they are unable to communicate verbally uninterrupted, are constantly checking their phones for messages, and become irritable if they have to be away from their phone for any period of time."

Yikes! I don't know about you, but this sounds a little disturbing.

Mobiles vs. Non-Mobiles
Here's another story along the same lines from Wired, which reports that kids are now breaking into two social groups: mobiles and non-mobiles. The article describes the "mobiles" group this way:

"The people who had become a part of the mobiles group had a hard time doing deprivation at all," Blinkoff said. "They couldn't do it at all."

Whoa. This is sounding more and more like addiction, eh?

I should be clear that I'm not against the mobile phone, but as with all technology, I do think we must be aware of how mobile phones integrate into our lives. I think it's wise to set boundaries to make sure our technology (in this case the mobile phone) doesn't control us, but that we maintain control over it.

To avoid ending this post on a down note, I must share this hilarious James Lileks response to the idea of un-inventing mobile phones:

"I have one. It's always off. If you turn it on, people call you, and there's really only one message you need to know right away: I am a trucker in the car behind you and there is an axe murderer hiding in your back seat. And you would, of course, say "how did you know my number?" Followed by "AAAAIIEEEE!"

Hee hee. Exactly! :-)

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