I dont own a cellphone. There! I said it!
I’ve had one for some months before and I hated it, and I lost it, and I was so happy I lost it I didnt even try to track it down. I have been cellphone free for 3 years now, and I dont know how much longer I can hold, but I intend to fight to the bitter end.
Now people have asked me what it is that I have against those wonders of digital technology… If I own a computer I should obviously be down with any technological crap society deems necessary to survive in current times, whats the big deal about cellphones? well… allow me to try and analyze this here…
So it’s rather funny and creepy at the same time to think, that by now, anyone who is reading this information here on the web, had most likely gone through the cellphone dillema, and most likely gave up and got one. I dont know anyone who doesnt have at least a love-hate relationship with their monitoring device, if not a complete slave-master complex, and the people I know who dont have one can be counted on one hand. From that computer tech friend, to the crusty hippie from rural alabama, few can stand the temptation and maintain their complexion.
And I know, I know… the cellphone issue is old. We all knew it a few years ago already, that they are obnoxious and they are here to stay. I should get over it already. I mean, if anything, people seemed to have picked up some social code of conduct about them. There are millions more of them, and yet you dont get the loud restaurant yapper too often, or the loud theatre ringtone. People actually respect the sign by the counter at the coffeeshop, or the announcer at the beginning of an event, or their friend who is right there infront of them talking when their digital leash is being jerked. With time people learned to control their weird digital pets, or at least some people did, and we all learned to live with them, we all adapted. Not to mention that society seems to have presented us with new challanges, like the zombies on their laptop in every coffeeshop in town, or like the myspace phenomena which I dont even know how to begin talking about. Technology is here to stay, why make it more painful then it already is by challenging it?
I have been trying to grasp all these years how human society is going to end up dealing with this devices. It’s usefulness so addictive, it’s repulsive vibes measureable by the size of your brain tumor. obviously there would have to be a shock effect, a rebound. Well… when then? Things have come to the point that not having one is considered an offensive behavior towards society. And I am not just talking about those business based relationships, where you could see this coming years ago. In that realm, and maybe even justifiably, not being accessible could be argued to be an inferiority in an employee who is on a leash by definition. But much more disturbing, is the tendency of friendships to be cellphone dependent. People now consider it an active act of disconnection to not own a cellphone. If they cant call you to hang out when theyre around the corner, or let you know exactly when they hit the bar, you lose. Your friends, my friends, consider me a weirdo, a hermit, I must enjoy being inaccessible to them, because I dont want to hang out. By not paying some corporation to let me access my own social network, I am apperantly actively trying to eject myself from it. As if it is me, who is obviously living in the stone age, or at least in the nineties, it is me who is dysfunctional and deficient and archaic, while the users, the addicts, are hip and rebellious, reclaiming technology from the man with every call.
Now, I am a digital artist, I hang with a certain kind of crowd here in san francisco, from geeks to artists to activist types. and eventhough they are part of some ‘radical’ movement or another, they are not about to drop everything in the name of fighting the man. All of us obviously have a limited view of society: a very american city centric one. There are obviously places where people have less money, places where people lead slower lives, places where there is no reception… I know… I’ve been there… and I liked it!
I’ve been noticing more and more movie themes, mostly from east asian ultra-techno nations, that deal with cellphone addiction themes in an interesting way. Things like the pain caused by bad reception, or the mental disturbance at the loss of a cellphone. in a Ji-woon Kim ‘memories’ a woman wakes up in the street, her cellphone broken, her memory gone. What seems like a simplistic 21st century movie plot, ends up as a ghost story. Society is slowly becoming engulfed in reactions to these things, and time is developing emotional circuitry around them, interacting with them and with eachother through them.
These days you can feel the spread of cellphone phenomena around you, on the street, in the park, at the bar or the store. There is a diminishing class of people who dont have them, and they are notably disconnected from reality, in more ways than one. San Francisco, probably a little more so than other cities, has that special touch to it, where the only thing separating the crackheads from the yuppies walking down the street talking to themselves is the bluetooth light shining against their temples. can you get more eerie than that? I though I should take some footage of both social classes of street mumbling and mix them together till you cant tell them apart.
Finally, it has occurred to me that I too have a breaking point, I too have a price. What would it take for me to give in and get one of those devilish things? what can make me want to be available to the world at any time? to risk my health, if not physically, then for sure mentally, all for the sake of fitting in, of being connected. And that brings us to the very reason I hate the damn things, the social norm, the trend. It is the unstoppable wave of consumption that makes me uncomfortable. You dont choose to have one, it is forced down your throat coated with adds and peer pressure. If you want to survive in this reality, you HAVE to have one.
Cellphones have surpassed and eclipsed phone lines, they have decimated the alarm clock market and working their way up to being music players, still cameras, video cameras. Things that were digitally in the computer domain. Some phones can go online, some phones can link through a wireless network, or link your computer to the web through the phone network. Slowly the phone network and the web are converging. From driving directions to entertainment picks, they are taking information access to a new level, they are doing to the laptop what the laptop did to the desktop just a few years ago, and they are doing to humanity what computers weren’t able to do for half a century. Which is, to turn it on. Having access to any piece of information and to any person at all times is equateable to a hallucinogen opening the floodgates of seratonin in the brain, embarking the whole species on a crazy trip. And when that time arrives, when we can choose to experience anything, from the most terrifying of sci-fi apocalyptic horror film, to the most blissful green technology heaven on earth, no one human would be able to change independently. Dependency would peak along with connectivity, there would be no other way to exist. To disconnect from the network, from the species, would be to die. To wake up and find your cellphone broken, like that girl in the movie, you might as well be a ghost.