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From the Publisher’s Desk – Shhhhh, one of us just dinged

By Keith Whitson

“Ding” chimes out in the room. Instantly everyone within hearing distance takes note. It is as if the tone came from an all powerful alien, controlling a microchip planted in our brains. Conversation stops. Nothing is more important than the mother voice of the tone.

The need to attend to the situation is seen by the urgency in everyone’s face. Then, in unison, we all reach into our pockets, into purses, or wherever the master controller was left. “Was it you?” The response is, “I don’t know, I thought it was you.”  Then we all look.

I am talking about cell phones and alerts that a message has been received. I have noticed it at work. I have seen it in public. Nothing has ever captivated humans as much as the cell phone.

I have written about this before in a column. I am constantly amazed and annoyed at how bad the situation is quickly becoming all around us. I often fall guilty myself, but I don’t think I am as bad as some. Maybe I am still in denial. Is there a rehab program?

Yes, there is. I looked this information up and found one such place is reStart, an addiction recovery center in Redmond, Wash., which offers a specialized treatment program for the mobile fixation, comparing smartphone addiction to compulsive shopping and other behavioral addictions.

Oh, there is another one. I do tend to have a shopping addiction. I don’t necessarily shop because I need something. I usually shop to find something to need. It is that little burst of joy, like Christmas all year long.

A study out of Baylor University found that female college students spend an average of 10 hours a day interacting with their cell phones—mainly surfing the internet and sending 100-plus texts a day. That’s also far more time than they reported spending with friends. I didn’t see a report of men, but I think it is beginning to be just as bad.

I have never seen so many people needing to make a phone call as we have today. I still think back to my childhood. We had one telephone with a party line, which meant you had to pick up the receiver first and listen to see if any of the other five or so families in your neighborhood were already using it. If not, you could make a call.

If a neighbor in your party line group picked up the telephone while you were on it, they could also listen in. Sometimes this would go undetected, while other times you could hear them breathing lightly, being interrupted by someone coming into the room or the shuffle of their hand while covering the microphone of the handset to block out any sound on their end.

This house phone was attached to the wall and was not portable and could not stretch beyond the cord attached to it. Once you left the home (gasp) you were on your own.

I must say the cell phone does come in handy if you are out and see, or have, an emergency. They are also good for checking on someone or for saying you are going to be late. I am afraid that too often they are used for the most random chit chat. We’ve never been as connected to someone on the other end of the phone about random nothings as we are today with cell phones. At the same time, we have never been as disconnected, as we are now, to the person who is actually in our presence.

You can pick those cell phone users out on the highway. The cell phone drivers are the ones in the fast lane but driving slow. They are the ones weaving and crossing the center line. They are the ones who forget their turn off is coming up and then weave over, unaware that someone is in the way.

So, now, my newest reason for thinking of the cell phone craze. I recently went into TJ Maxx (to feed my shopping addiction), while pushing a buggy cart. Why, because carrying merchandise in my arms might limit what I can actually pick up.

Shopping with carts is like walking bumper cars. Car rules usually apply. Look both ways before pulling out of a side aisle into the main flow. If the aisles are stocked to the ends, pulling out may take numerous attempts of slowly rolling the front end out to get a view and either pulling back in quickly or making a mad dash into buggy traffic. Sometimes buggy traffic can be the worst.

Now, add cell phones and we are back to a similar highway traffic scenario. Each aisle I wanted to go down either had a completely stopped shopper blocking the way, while talking on a cell phone, or had a shopper moving very slowly and unaware others wanted to get by. Were they calling the bank to see if they could afford their items? No, they were checking in with cousin Sue about whether nephew Bill had been allowed to move back in after wife Jennifer kicked him out because she was running around with that low life John who should have never moved back here after getting a dishonorable discharge from the Army.

I am not totally innocent of cell phone calls myself. However, I don’t particularly like to talk on the phone and usually don’t answer if I don’t recognize the name or number calling. My biggest cell phone addiction is checking my emails to delete the ones I don’t need and limit the ones I have to attend to.

I do use my cell phone for entertainment if I am dining alone or waiting for a doctor or car appointment. This comes in the form of Facebook for viewing the latest posts by friends or Flipboard, where I see some of the top news and feature stories around the country.

Excuse me, I just got a “ding.”