Cellphones And Personal Choice

Mike McGough
April 2022

Even though he’s had a cell phone for years, the technology continues to fascinate him.  Being able to contact almost anyone, from almost anywhere, almost anytime is a marvel that isn’t lost on him.  He’s old enough to remember telephone party lines and when you only answered when it was your specific ringtone.  Back then, ringtones were a combination of long and short rings, with each party on the line having their own individual combination. The earliest home phone number he can recall only had six digits.   

As cellphones began to proliferate, he became interest in the impact they would have on society.  He likened it to Henry Ford’s Model T.  The Model T was not the first car, but it was the car that put the world on wheels.  Cellphones weren’t the first phones, but they are the technology that put a phone in almost everyone’s hands.   Not unlike the automobile, cellphones have both their advantages and disadvantages.  They provide numerous benefits, but those benefits aren’t without their costs and related difficulties. 

He believes, at least based on his own experience, that the benefits of cell phones outweigh their disadvantages.  He knows this is not true for everyone, but owing to the fact that most people have one, he reasoned that it is probably true for most folks.  Nevertheless, he wanted to get a better understanding of the disadvantages, then consider how they might be mitigated or at least reduced.  He had noticed that his own use wasn’t always the most respectful of others, particularly since he had retired. 

He decided that his research would be informal in nature and based on his orbit of current contacts.  Anything related to the general use and misuse of cellphones that came to his attention was also considered.   Over a few years, he saw patterns emerge among his contacts and in society in general.  Although by no measure scientific in nature, the following is a summary of what he observed and a few suggested protocols he developed. 

1. Lots of people don’t own a cellphone, while others sleep with them.  Cellphone use is an individual choice, based on a lot of personal factors.  Don’t automatically assume that everyone has one or how they want to use the one they have. 

2. There are people who do not like talking on the phone.  Some people don’t like talking period.  Even purposeful calls are a bit of a strain for them, and idle chitchat is a real bother.  Just because you may like to talk, respect the fact that not everyone does. 

3. Some people are all but obsessed with the ongoing immediacy and personal interaction of social media.  There are also plenty of people who have little or no interest; it’s just not for them.  Some people enjoy being in touch, in fact, even brief interruptions are troubling for them.  Most people are somewhere in between.  Regardless of your preference, be respectfully selective about your use.  Not all of your contacts may want to see the latest picture you took or know what you had for lunch. 

4. He learned that some people believe their cellphone is for their convenience alone, and not for the convenience of others.  He observed that some folks carefully screen their calls and texts.  Some they totally ignore, and for others they respond only when it is absolutely convenient for them.  If you’re an immediate responder, consider giving yourself some response latitude. It may reduce the pressure and periodic inconvenience brought on by your need to respond immediately to each and every contact.  It may also be wise to take the hint when your calls and texts go unanswered.   Someone may be sending you a message.

5. Cellphone calls are always potentially intrusive.  That’s one of the disadvantages of their 24-7-365 availability. Just because it’s convenient for you to call, doesn’t guarantee it’s convenient for someone to respond.  Consider opting for texting. It’s less intrusive, and generally doesn’t imply the need for an immediate response.  If you want to talk with someone, text first to check their availability or requests a return call. 

6. Not everybody likes having their picture taken; some people don’t like it at all.  It’s become way too easy to violate peoples’ personal space with a cellphone camera.  They’re everywhere, and everyone knows how to use them.  Ask before you click.   If you feel the need to constantly take pictures, do sunsets and flowers. 

Consider your current cellphone habits both as a sender and as a receiver.  How you choose to use your cellphone is up to you, and remember the same is true for everyone else.  Cellphone courtesy is important, and just like back in the days of party landlines, respect is really essential.