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Cellular Phone Dependency Syndrome

BY SAVAIRA KAWISH

Though the electronic media (telegraph, radio, TV, and now the internet) have decentralized life and turned the world into a “global village” as the late media and communication theorist Marshall McLuhan stated, but I believe it is the cell phone that has truly obliterated the boundaries. The cellular phone is an extension of the human being and affects our outlook, attitudes, feelings, norms and values. Our social equilibrium and existence can be severely jostled when we are without the cell for even a minute.

Last evening my cell phone stopped working. It just went flat dead on me! I did the best I could to get it started but it simply refused to switch on. As a last resort I even did the unthinkable: smashed it against the wall! Still I could not make a single call or message hubby dear to let him know about my predicament. This is when my world nearly came crashing down on my head; I felt completely cut off.

My faithful Nokia 2760 was quite a workhorse phone. It never left my side; there is no phone in my house. It was always being tossed around like a rag doll. I've dropped it down a flight of stairs, and on floors hard enough to break it into pieces. I've used it in the rain, in the blistering summer heat, in the desert and had it often submerged in suds while doing the dishes and laundry. No matter what it went through, it survived.

The sandy gold, clamshell designed 2760 was affordable and dependable. Since I am not tech savvy, it was easy to use and quite stylish. It had a user-friendly menu that anyone could understand with very little effort. It was durable and perfect for texting.

So it came as a rude shock when it went dead without as much as a beep! I felt betrayed. How could it leave me in a limbo when I had such important calls to make in the evening? How could it leave me in the lurch at such a crucial time? I felt incommunicado. I have no phone book so all my contacts are lost.

I haven’t memorized any number! I can’t even access my ATM since I had the pin number saved in the faithful dog.

With the cell phone gone, I am suffering from subjective distress, loneliness and social inhibition. My cell phone acts as an umbilical cord between me and my husband and the rest of the family. The umbilical cord was severed and I was floundering about sans support. Without the cell phone I was rendered incapable of communicating with family and friends. I knew Kawish would be worried sick not being able to get in touch with me. Ridiculously I felt tears pricking the back of my eyes!

Some simple pleasures that come with cell phones were momentarily stripped away. I had a hard time going to bed. No matter what time of the night, it is Kawish who always calls before going to bed, I missed hearing his voice, his sleep drugged voice.

When I am with you, we stay up all night.                                When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.                               Praise God for those two insomnias!                                      And the difference between them.”                                        (Jalal ad-Din Rumi)

The witty text messages that made me laugh me laugh were all washed away. My communication and information needs and the appeal to the need for expression and individuality went down the drain. With mobile, I had the opportunity to be more interactive and, if I had sufficient information I could customize the content accordingly, making it a far more personal and relevant message. I loved and appreciate the connected independency my cell phone gave me.

I had no idea what time it was. Like most people I had also stopped using wrist watches and alarm clocks, both easily available in the cell phone. Could not check the time in the PC either as there was power failure. When I finally woke in the morning… or was it afternoon...the sun was blazing and I was drenched in sweat, thanks to the power failure! From the mosques I could hear the muezzin’s call for prayers. Was it the afternoon prayer or the mid-afternoon prayer?

The cell phone is no longer a fad. It is now a requirement for existence, as much an extension of our body as fingers and hands. I can’t quite recall when the cell phone stopped being expediency and altered my lifestyle. Ever since I bought my first cell phone I had it hung around my neck like a medallion always. I was intimately linked with it. I was always a skeptic of technology and hated talking on land lines for fear of being overheard. I still shy from making calls to acquaintances. So the cell phone liberated me, gave me the freedom to make calls to friends whenever I felt like without being overheard. The feature that I enjoy the most and am still heavily dependent on is texting. The text message service gives me security as I can always reach someone and I am always reachable.

The cell phone made my handbag lighter as it has become my personal diary and reminder. People, including me, had also stopped using wrist watches, alarm clocks and radios. Rapid development had made it possible to use the cell phone as a mobile office. Digital and video cameras allow capturing of everyday shots that can be easily uploaded on social network sites, blogs instantaneously. The diffusion of Internet access via mobile phone, which began in February 1999, has also been remarkable. It kept me connected to people all over the world.

I know in a couple of days when I would look back on this incident I would laugh and be quite embarrassed by how disconcerted it made. More so by the healthy attachment I have with my cell phone. I now realize that my cell phone was not just a luxury for me; it was a necessity, an indispensable item, an extension of me.

So I guess I am also a victim of the "cellular phone dependency syndrome."

PS: I now have a brand new Nokia in my hand! After finding out about my dilemma, he had the cell phone delivered to me.

 

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