I got my first cell phone when I was twelve years old. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal now, but in 2007, a twelve-year-old with a cell phone was big.
It didn’t matter that it was a Samsung flip phone, or that I didn’t have anyone but my parents to text, I had a cell phone. And it felt good.
It was a Christmas present, but it didn’t come without rules. My twelve-year-old self had three cell phone rules:
1. No cell phone past 9 p.m.
2. No buying ringtones
3. Absolutely no cell phone at the dinner table, no exception
Eventually, as the years passed, and as my Samsung turned into a Motorola Razr, a BlackBerry, and then an iPhone, the first two rules ceased to exist. The third, however, is still very much into effect.
Rule number three has affected me in ways I never knew possible. Not only am I borderline horrified to look at my phone during any dinner setting (dinner for one is no exception), there are many situations where I feel guilty for pulling out my phone or sneaking a peak to see if I have any messages.
Having a cell phone gives me cognitive dissonance.
I was taught to always put my cell phone away during serious interactions. School? You better believe my cell phone was in the bottom of my back pack. Work? Lock it up. Family dinner? Put it on silent and out of sight.
Even now, when cell phones have become integral to staying connected with the media and society, I often feel guilty about going on mine.
It doesn’t matter if I see my teachers on their cell phones during class, or my co-workers checking their phones during a shift, I can’t do it without a sense of unease.
But what if someone’s trying to get ahold of me? What if my brother broke his leg? What if our Prime Minister died?
I grew up early enough in the technological revolution where I remember being scowled at for being on my phone too much. But I’m also living in an era where cell phones, and technology in general, are a way of life. I literally wouldn’t be in my school program right now if I didn’t have a smart phone. If I hadn’t already had one (which, of course I did because it was 2015), I would have had to buy a smart phone to become smart. Not only did I have to have a smart phone, I had to become active on social media.
Cell phones, social media, and technology are the reality of the career path I’ve chosen. One cannot work in the communications field without them. It’s something I know, and something I don’t hate. If I hated it, I wouldn’t be pursuing a career in communications.
What I do hate, however, is the feeling of unease I get when I’m constantly on my phone. The media is turning to social media and technology to send information to consumers more and more, and if I don’t keep up via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, I won’t be a successful communications professional. But every time I open my Twitter app, or I sneak a glance at my cell phone during class, I hear my mother’s voice telling me to put my phone away at the dinner table (okay not actually, but you know what I mean).
I guess it could be worse though. I could have been born ten years later, received my first iPhone at the age of 7, and not feel a damn thing every time I check my phone instead of engaging in my physical surroundings.