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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cell Phones: Toys that should come with a warning label

As a child of the 70s, life was very simple. You had your tv, probably 6 to 10 stations, of which many showed the same program, a radio, and your local newspaper.
If you were on the road, and wanted to make a phone call, you needed to get to a payphone. At home, you had one line, and there was no call waiting, or voice mail and sometimes you waited till your mother or sister was "off the phone". Many times you called your friends, and you got a busy sign..for hours.
That's just the way it was.
Around about the late 80s, cell phones started to pop up. What a great invention! A phone you could carry around, and make a call anytime, from pretty much anywhere and whenever you wanted. At first, the range was limited and there were many dead zones, but it was still a much better way of staying in contact than we had ever seen before. In terms of safety, being stranded due to car that wouldn't start, or an accident..or just plain bad directions was now a thing of the past.
At the same time, the prominence of computers went from punching cards in your grade 11 class to one in every home, and by the 90s, the internet opened up the whole world to each and every citizen that wanted that access.
Big business being what it is, jumped in on this opportunity, and began integrating technology so that we could have super machines that did all of these things...and more.
The reality of today's cell phones is this. They aren't cell phones. They are all in one super computers with every feature that can be crammed into them so that the companies that provide service can make money by charging you to use those services.
Today, almost everyone who has a cellphone has every feature that is possible to have. That means GPS, social networking, games, texting, camera (photo taking), phone and long distance calling...and any other feature you can think of.
But how much of this do we really need...and how much is actually waste and somewhat dangerous on many levels?
It's great to make a quick call, but do we really need our cell phone on all the time. Do we need to be able to be reached 24/7? I don't think we do. We got along without it for most of our lives, and now its like an addiction where we have to get every call instantly, or we feel empty..or like the world is passing us by. We could set the phone to setting where only certain calls from certain relatives (spouses, parents, children) alert us, similar to how pagers worked before cell phones became prominent.
Do we need games on our phone? Its a nice feature to have if you are sitting bored in a dentists or doctors office, but for the most part we don't need this feature. Most of us have desktops and laptops at home, and play enough games as it is. As well, many have x box and/or Wii and play enough of that, in addition to old fashioned games like Scrabble or Monopoly or just plain watching sports on tv. Not to mention all the tv game shows, like Millionaire, Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal or Wheel Of Fortune.
As for GPS, sure, its a great feature, but for the most part, we don't need this, and certainly don't need it on a phone. Most cars now come equipped with a built in GPS, and there is always old fashioned maps..or looking up the directions on the internet in advance. Rarely do we need a GPS attached to our phone.
Being able to take pictures with your phone is a great feature, but its become highly overused and we take pictures now of everything. It is not something we would do if it wasn't that easy. Do we really need to take pictures of bumper to bumper traffic as we sit in it? How many pictures of random flowers do we need to take?
Texting has become a way of life. For some, its become an obsession and an addiction. My niece sometimes texts 30,000 times a month, and she is hardly out of the norm. Do we really need to say "hi, lol" to every single person we know all day? Certainly not.
I go for many walks through the park. On my way, it has become very obvious that most people can't go for a simple walk anymore and not be connected to the world. Most have their heads down..and are texting back and forth..or responding to facebook comments. Others are walking a dog, or pushing a stroller but are talking on their blackberry for the entire walk. The concept of a simple peaceful walk has now eluded a generation, and even adults who never had that technology are using it in this manner.
Many times now as I go to a movie, there are quite a few who continually check their blackberry throughout the entire movie..and many don't only check, they text back and forth. At some times, it lights up the whole theater like a night time concert in the park.
We all know the dangers of driving and texting, or driving and speaking on our cell phones. Many an accident has been caused this way, or just barely avoided through luck of the draw.
Another danger of this technology is lack of privacy. Unless your settings are set properly, your smart phone, or blackberry or whatever you have, is basically a tracking device that tells others who know how to use this technology, where you are, and how to find you.
When I was young, most toys came with warning labels documenting the various dangers of a toy. We wouldn't want a kid sticking a lego down his or her throat, or cutting themselves on the edge of a knife. The reality of today's cell phones is that they should also come with a warning.
THIS PRODUCT IS EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE AND WILL COMPROMISE YOUR PRIVACY AND CONSUME YOUR TIME IN WAYS YOU PROBABLY DON'T NEED..OR WANT!

The reality of this toy..or gadget is that they have preyed on our desire to have the newest technology..and have as much of it as we can get..whether we need it or not.
It's basically the new toy, and we just can't put this toy down.

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