MORE TECH, LESS TALK

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By Amanda Groulx

They’re everywhere and they’re multiplying. They can be found in our homes, in our cars and even in our pockets.

There’s no escape from our precious cellphones. “Cellphones are enabling people to create their own micro cultures, demonstrating consumers’ ability to modify and repurpose technology for their own use,” James Katz, director of New Jersey’s Rutger University’s Center for Mobile Communication Studies, said at a conference last year. “Unlike the internet, which has sparked fears of a digital divide, the cell phone has become popular all over the world,” he said.

Many uses for cells have surfaced, from advertising to “fake talking” (pretending to talk on your cellphone while in public to avoid fear or loneliness) or even playing games and watching TV. Katz said two billion people worldwide have cellphones.

These phones have become part of a user’s identity, and it’s not just the choice of ring tone or face plate. Noah Brier, author of “Coming of Age,” an article about cell phone culture among various American demographics, explained that since cellphone technology allows people to carry phone numbers with them, the cell, numbers and contact lists become a part of a user’s identity. “You can be living in New York, but have a California area code so you can keep in contact with people in both places,” he said. Brier attributed this to “cord cutting,” the idea that more and more people are using cellphones exclusively.

Telecommunication and cellphones have become an integral part of daily society. But having your phone everywhere can also pose a problem. Cellphones have created “a culture of dependence,” Stephen Muzzatti, a sociology professor at Ryerson, said. “People are feeling the need to check in with friends and family members quite often.” He uses the example of people talking on streetcars and buses. “People are less likely to engage in pleasantries or small talk with strangers,” he said.

They opt to talk on their cellphones instead. Leslie Chan, a lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, agreed, saying phones change but don’t necessarily improve communication. “People are most likely communicating more, but there’s less substance to the conversation. It’s more for keeping in touch,” Chan said.

Katz, too, discussed this issue. “Cellphones seem to prioritize communication with distant people over those sharing one’s space,” he said.

Regardless of the distances involved, people are talking more. The wireless love affair will only grow deeper; the cords have definitely been cut.

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