There is no debate about the fact that cell phone usage has increased dramatically over the last few years, in line with the number of functions that we expect our cell phone to do. Cell phone owners now have the option of relying on their phone for satellite navigation, radio, web browsing as well as the usual functions of texting and calling (Simmons, 2010). In line with this, there has been an increase in the number of texts sent each day, as well as the use of “free” texting services such as BBM (Hyman, 2013).
This has led some people to believe that the U.S. is a nation addicted to their cell phones. However, how do we decide whether our cell phone usage is normal, or if it is a real addiction that needs to be tackled in the same way? There are suggestions that cell phone addiction is an addiction like any other, so we need to apply the same conventions to this as we would for a drug or alcohol abuse problem.
“These include increased tolerance (needing more cell phone time to achieve the same result), an inability to cut back on use (an inability to leave the phone at home for a day or to enter a no signal area), and a reduction in competing behaviours” (Hyman, 2013).
Arguably, many cell phone users do have a cell phone addiction based on these criteria, because it can be difficult to be without a phone when those around you are consistently using theirs.
Additionally, there are now situations in which we rely on a cell phone for social behaviors, which should be seen as positive. This is not the same negative consequence as would come from reliance upon drugs and alcohol. Cell phones were created to make the communication between people more efficient. The first attempts to achieve this aim were a far cry from what we see nowadays, that is the telegraph, post and the landline phone. Though landline phones and post are still in use they are not perceived as something new or modern, rather a thing of the past. Even if we take the cell phone, they did not always look like modern ones. Looking back at the first cell phones, they were big, and could be used only for calling people and sending text messages, they did what they were created for, but the evolution of cell phones went on. If we look at a modern cell phone, one will instantly notice that its primary function of simple communication with people who you cannot talk face to face to is now secondary.
Manufacturers place the emphasis on the processor or the definition of the screen or the possible ways of connection to the Internet. While the advantages of this are easily understood, there are several drawbacks which are unnoticeable behind the curtain of the technological progress. The first of which being that now cell phones rather than helping people to communicate, make the real communication even harder. (Mozes) Much of the language that people are using to describe this cell phone issue is quite biased. Cell phones are increasingly because of the human populations. There are some scientific sources which tackle the issue from a psychological perspective (Hyman, 2013), news sources tend to side on hysterical (Carbonell et al, 2009). Mozes (2012) describes cell phones as an example of “materialism” and “impulsiveness””, which are traditionally negative traits. This article suggests that much of the problem with cell phones could be compared to the actions of peacocks when they display their leak behavior (Jenaro et al, 2007). This is backed up with some serious facts and figures about the issues, as over 90% of students at U.S. colleges have a cell phone, and an average of 3200 texts are now sent per month by young adults. Arguably, this does signal a problem for those who use cell phones. “3200 texts are now sent by young people a month, which means that they must spend a lot of time on their cell phones, which could be considered an addiction”.
However, it is important to look at the behaviours that this replaces as well as the consequences to define whether it is an addiction or not. For example, texting may have allowed people to increase their social interaction and therefore increase their psychological well-being (Koo & Park, 2010), making them happier and therefore more productive. This does not seem like the result of an addiction, or at least not the result of a damaging addiction. The use of the word addiction may be accurate in it signifies “overuse”, but does have a lot of negative connotations that I believe are not appropriate to describe modern cell phone usage. Additionally, cell phones are an extremely new technology. This means that they cannot be judged by old standards, because many of the standards were not created to describe elements of the internet age (Koo & Park, 2010). Human lifestyles are changing, which means that their perception of addiction and overuse are also changing. Combining this change with the fact that cell phone usage may allow young people to keep safe (without getting lost) and increase their social capacity, it seems as though the negative connotations of the word “addiction” should be left out of this argument. Perhaps the term “reliance” would be more appropriate, as this describes the growing use of cell phones without criminalizing the behaviour. Surely, at first cell phones were used for very important issues, now a mother could know where her child is at any time and provide help when needed, beloved ones could communicate despite the long distances between them.
When people met face to face, there was no necessity in phones, they were laid aside. But now everything changed. The older generation, in its majority, still perceives a phone as a tool for communication and only as that, the camera of the cell phone may be used sometimes by them or the alarm clock, or some other simple functions, but the phone for them is just a kind of accessory and that is it. But the cell phone is perceived differently by the younger generation. Firstly, phones have become a kind of status sign, this is one of the reasons young adults want to use their phones in public, and it is a way of showing what a fancy object they possess. Here is also appropriate to mention the addiction of young people to social networks, they are willing to be up-to-date all the time with new posts on Twitter or Facebook, and with broad opportunities of accessing the World Wide Web almost from everywhere, teenagers do not need to use computers only, they can read everything with the help of their cell phones. Young adults, in their turn, will most probably deny the fact that they have any problems with excess usage of cell phones, explaining it with the desire to be up-to-date with news from their friends and relatives, for some it will be true, as we still see young people who, while having coffee with a company of friends, do not type text messages, cutting themselves off from the communication.
On the other hand, we see people doing this very thing in all companies. This, to some extent, shows that communication with the help of the cell phone is more important to them than their friends who are around. It has been estimated that on average, young adults would spend seven hours a day interacting through communication networks. They would also check their phones for missed call or messages about 60 times per day. (Alleyne) This is quite a lot of time, which could be spent for something more useful, for example for communicating with people in person. There has even been a term coined in 2008 for denoting cell phone addiction – Nomophobia that is no-mobile-phone-phobia, so this means that people might be afraid of being left without their cell phone. (Bellum) Another important issue is connected with personal security. A cell phone is a talking device, an organizer, a tool for using social networks and on-line banking systems. (Shambare, Rugimbana and Takesure) While performing such a wide variety of functions, more and more personal information is stored in the memory of a cell phone. Here the problem of cyber crime comes in, it is usually addressed in connection with computers, but it does not mean that there is no way personal information can be stolen from a cell phone. And surely no one would want such a thing to happen, but it is a fact that even the private information kept on a portable device might become no longer private.
In my opinion, cell phones as such, being used wisely and mostly for utilitarian functions may be used for many important tasks in everyday life. An alarm clock is useful, a camera is useful when you suddenly want to take a picture of something, calling and texting functions are very useful in daily life, even the opportunity of portable access to the Internet proves often really useful. But when combined with addiction to social networks and a constant paranoiac desire to be in touch all the time, a cell phone turns into a kind of tool for substituting real relationships and real life with electronic ones.