Monday, August 11, 2014

Epiphany #56: The Social Experiment

As part of an unplanned social experiment yesterday, I was off the grid for over four hours, as in no access to my cell phone.  I could not tell you the last time I have been separated from it for that length of time.  Even for one fourth of that time.

The reason why is both unimportant and disappointing, worthy of another post perhaps.  I was helping some friends with their trivia team.  They had made it to the finals of the city, and thirty teams were gathering at The Honest Pint for the 10-round showdown to determine which teams would move on to the regions.  Big implications for the ability to answer silly questions. Which leads to the disappointment--in order to make their tournament work, the organizers felt like they had to ban every phone from even coming in the door, regardless of whether or not it was a smart phone, or if it was turned on, or if it was on display or merely stored away in a pocket.  I will leave it to you to figure out why.

So my daughter and I, who were subbing in, put our phones in the glove compartment and entered the fray.

First, the physiological phone issues:

1.  I reached for it even though it wasn't there.
2.  I felt it in my pocket, even vibrating sometimes.
3.  I lost all sense of time.
4.  I felt trapped.

We had taken precautions before we left, of course, told my wife and other daughter that we would be unreachable and where they needed to drive to in case of emergency.  But let's be realistic; it isn't like we were heading into the Amazon rain forest.  We were going to a pub in downtown Chattanooga.

But that's part of the mindset we've developed, isn't it?  That feeling that if we are cut off from cellular contact, we will need a backup plan, even if we are in close physical proximity to whomever we might need to contact.

My wife says that cell phones are completely worth the trade-off of privacy for instant communication.  That is a mother's instinct, and a father's as well, though perhaps not quite as much. Certainly, I have bought into the trade-off myself.

Yesterday, I was not pining for a world of no cell phones.  I was not yearning for that mythical camping trip away from civilization out of the reach of anyone.  Instead, I was a bit disoriented.

But then, I am a person who probably checks email (by phone) ten or more times a day.  I'll deal with work business at any hour of any day.  In fact. I even get miffed when people won't contact me while I'm on vacation.  I want to be in the know.  And I get irritated with my father at least once a week when he turns off his phone while sleeping, because I know that very few people besides my brother and I call him, and I know what time of the week my brother calls.

Rather than romanticize a world that no longer exists, at least in this country, I find it really cool that, for example, I am in Key West and you are in Wyoming or Colorado, we can trade, in an instant, locations or photos or great experiences.  I like sharing the world, not cutting it off.

And so, I was sad that a need to win so powerful that Googling for an answer under a table or in a bathroom could be more satisfying than a group of otherwise-sane wracking their brains together to try to come up with a 6-letter name of a German candy company that is an acronym of the inventor's first name, last name, and home town.  Privacy rights are one thing, but what about honesty rights?


rodle said...

I too feel unbalanced when I don't have my phone. Even aside from the communication aspect, it is now my calendar and watch. Without it, I don't know where I'm supposed to be next, nor how long I have to get there.

Also, I remember Tommy always praising HARIBO gummy bears. Is that the company?

Bob said...

Haribou, indeed. You are correct, sir!

troutking said...

You are exactly right, though, cell phones, used properly, are a great unifier and connector, not divider.

Thomas Dillow said...

Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene eben so!

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