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Cell Phones Changing Social Group Communication 430

Mortimer.CA writes "An interesting article on how cell phones are changing the way people interact and get together in Japan. Some interesting quotations: 'To not have a keitai (cell phone) is to be walking blind, disconnected from just-in-time information on where and when you are in the social networks of time and place.' And the new social faux pas: 'One college student I spoke to described leaving one's phone at home or letting the battery die as "the new taboo."' The article mentions the book Smart Mobs which was mentioned on Slashdot before. I keep thinking how Marshal McLuhan said that our new inventions change the way we view the world. This is 'obvious' now, but was quite a new idea when he thought of it. In the 40s and 50s you "needed" to get a (land line) phone, then it was cars, email, and now cell phones. What's next? Is it simply a matter of keeping up with the Joneses?"
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Cell Phones Changing Social Group Communication

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:29PM (#5468060)
    I mean, not just being around people who use them, but using them myself. The whole idea of having to carry a phone with you is just... wrong. I don't want to be part of one of these groups.
    • by tigertigr ( 610853 ) <> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:48PM (#5468162) Journal
      I don't know about anybody else, but I like my time alone. I like to know that if I am out for a walk or doing something outside my home, no one (unless they are in my immediate vicinity) is going to interfere with that. I like to multi-task my work, but I don't like to multi-task my play.
      • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:41PM (#5468418) Homepage
        It's because I like my time alone that I like my cell phone. My cell phone means that I can largely go about my business in the world and still maintain a lot of my commitments by using the phone. It gives me far more freedom of movement than it takes away freedom from interaction, since my level of interactin is generally a constant, or at least something that I can control more actively.

        But my work habits have long been nomadic: I always look for positions and projects that give me maximum mobility.

    • I think the idea of driving a vehicle around without a phone is just wrong. What if it breaks down or you get in an accident?
      • This is a reason I hear a lot for people having cell phones.

        Well, what did you and everyone else before you do before they had cell phones? If you car breaks down you can use someone's phone in their house or a phone in a business to call a wrecker. Most people drive in the city or suburbs so it's not like you are miles away from civilization.

        If you get in an accident you can use the same strategy. You can also use someone else's cell phone (maybe even the person you hit) to call whoever.

        I've found that a lot of the people that have cell phones also have decent cars that aren't going to break down. Usually when you car 'breaks down' it won't start. Usually when you stop you car it is at a place of business or a friends house. For the times when you car is slowly breaking down you can limp it into town or to someones house. There aren't many times when you are driving in the middle of the night, miles from civilization, when you car breaks down (unless it is a horror movie :)).

        If your car does break down in the middle of nowhere the it will usually be at least an hour or two before a wrecker will get there.

        I drove to from Michigan to Alaska then down to California and back (12,000 miles) without a cell phone. No one had a cell phone, the car did not break down. We were not worried if it did. BTW, the car was about 5-7 years old, were were considering taking my 89 VW Fox before we got the other car.

    • by Alex Thorpe ( 575736 ) <alphax.mac@com> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:02PM (#5468234) Homepage
      I have no desire to carry either a cell phone or pager, even if they were completely free. Anyone needing to reach me can call me at home, and if I'm not there, CallNotes can take a message. I've long considered pagers to be a form of those radio transmitters they tag wild animals with to track them, and I don't want to be tracked. Making a call? I hardly dial out on my phone at home that often, and it's not like there won't be a phone anywhere I go if an emergency comes up!

      I use email, sometimes AIM/iChat, and a corded phone with Caller ID. That's all I need.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:07PM (#5468262) Journal
      I personally hate the entire idea of telephones. The idea that when they ring you should interrupt whatever you are doing and answer them just seems impolite. I also don't like talking to people on the telephone due to the amount of information you lose. When you talk to someone face-to-face you get all sorts of clues about what they're thinking from their expression, posture and even their smell. Without these you can miss a lot of communication.

      I own a mobile, and often carry it around with me, but it's turned off unless I either need to make a call, or know someone actually needs to talk to me. I try to check my messages fairly regularly, and usually get back to people, if they leave one. I do not regard a telephone as a means of communication, but as a way of arranging when to meet people with whom I wish to communicate.

      • I agree; I also don't like phones generally.

        Personally I make only two types of phone calls -- calling my parents every weekend at a roughly prearranged time, and sometimes calling to arrange an order of take out food.

        I don't have a cel, and with the computer online 24/7, it's extremely unusual for anyone to be able to call me at home. I prefer email instead. (in fact, I so loathe real time, non-face to face communication I don't have any sort of IM or chat either)
    • by mce ( 509 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:11PM (#5468283) Homepage Journal
      No you are not the only one.

      I work for a micro-electonics research institute. One of our many activities actually is making the implementation of ever smarter and feature-rich cellphones and similar devices ever more easy. Even worse, my very own project is about designing for low power from the system level downwards. One could say we're part of the cell phone companies pipe dreams. (Actually, my project worked closely with one of the major cell phone companies in the past, and now another one is very intersted.) All that just to make very clear that I'm not oposed to the technology for the technology's sake. But neither am I in favour of it "just because".

      I will personally *never* be caught having my own cell phone. I will carry/use one if the job that I'm doing at that very moment requires that I be reachable while away from any fixed phone system (which happens maybe once per year), but I flat out *refuse* to give in to the "But sir, you have to be reachable, don't you?" pressure. *I* am the one who decides when and where I want to be reachable. And when I've decided that I'm not to be reached, I will implement that very strictly. Now, I know that one can switch off those buggers when one doesn't want to be disturbed, but that is not the same thing: simply by always carrying that thing around, one creates that expection that one be reachable. Maybe not immediately, but definitely within the hour. People then just assume that they can interrupt your life at any moment, because "Hey, what else (s)he's got that cellphone for, afterall?". Then when you diseble it for more than one or two hours on end, they look at you like you're the bad guy/gall who prevented them from doing something "important" such as telling you they ran into Joe or Mary on the way to the bakery. As if that kind of chit-chat can't wait till next time you really see each other. If by then it's still worthy of being told at all, that is.

      Also concerning the "but you have to be reachable" craze: Once upon a time my phone company "discovered" that I use the internet a lot when at home. This is over a plain old dial-up modem, so they figured that "he's got to be reachable, so lets enable our nice (and paying!) mailbox service for him". Now there is some poor helpdesk guy over there who probably still has not recovered from what befell him after I found out what they had done and got in touch to get it disabled again. They charge the person who calls you for leaving the message, they charge you *again* for listening to the recording, and then they charge one of you *yet again* when you finnally do get to speak to one another on the phone? Not with me. Not in a million years.

      If all that makes me a social outcast, than so be it.
      • *I* am the one who decides when and where I want to be reachable.

        you can only do that if you have a cell phone! with one, you can turn it on or off, screen calls via caller id, voice mail, etc. without a cell phone, how do you decide to be reachable when you're not home?

    • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:22PM (#5468330)
      "I mean, not just being around people who use them, but using them myself. The whole idea of having to carry a phone with you is just... wrong. I don't want to be part of one of these groups."

      I don't see what's so 'wrong' about it. A cell phone can be a life saver. Here in Oregon there's been an on-going story about a snow-shoer that got lost on Mount Hood. I bet his family wishes he was carrying a cell phone.

      In any case, I can understand the social evolutions of carrying cell phones. When you got a group of people who wants to go do stuff, it's a lot easier to mobilize when the prerequisite is that everybody's home.

      Is that wrong? I don't see how. It may be bothersome to you if you've got a large group of friends that insist on calling all the time. But that's the neat thing you can do with a cell phone you can't do with a regular phone, put it on silent. Let the voice mail get it. You really can't do that with a landline for fear of blocking calls to other people who use it.

      So no, I don't have the instant "oo dat's bad" reaction to it.
    • by Azure_Reis ( 657647 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:11PM (#5468558)
      The thing is, you don't understand the nature of the Japanese. Where confucian values reign supreme and the youth are brought up to revere group structure, being out of touch can be a BAD THING (TM). The reason for the social change among the Japanese is because the language is heirarchical; the honorific form, which is used to separate people of different ages and different levels of power, is not used on the phone. Things are more casual and you don't have to defer to those about you. It's part of a process of social evolution that is going on in Japan because of the youth.
  • "have to have"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adamruck ( 638131 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:30PM (#5468064)
    Well I spend alot of time with my friends, and we certainly dont "have to have" a cell phone. To me, the only real situation you would absolutly need a cell phone is in case of emergency(car dies on the highway, that sort of thing).
    • I agree completely. I dont even have any portal phones. I have 2 completely wired down phones, one with speaker phone. They (minus the speaker phone probably) work even if the power is out, and never need charging, and can never disturb me when Im not home.
    • Re:"have to have"? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SubliminalLove ( 646840 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @07:56PM (#5469229)
      The report refers to Japanese, and by your response, I'd guess you're not.

      Japan has an incredible sense of groupism. Whereas in the West there is a tendency to focus on individuality as a prime virtue, in Japan (I don't know much about other places in the East), the sense of self is very much displaced by the sense of group.

      Because of this, the idea that the increased connectivity with society that a cellphone brings is crucial now in Japan is not at all suprising, and the idea that Americans tend to resist having to carry one follows equally well from that dichotomy of social personalities.


      <disclaimer>I am not now, nor have I ever been, Japanese, and I'm not any kind of expert on Japanese society. The above is based on what I've learned from reading about Japan and studying the language the last few years.</disclaimer>
  • Really? (Score:3, Funny)

    by tcd004 ( 134130 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:31PM (#5468066) Homepage
    I wonder if the Hozizon wireless guy's cellphone has changed his life. []

  • I'm sick of... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:31PM (#5468071) Journal
    I'm sick of everyone I know having the expectation that they can contact me anytime and anywhere. Sometimes I'd just like to disapear for a while and not be concerned with whether someone is trying to contact me or not.

    It's not just a trend in Japan... it's happening here in the US too. And it's not a good thing I think...

    • Re:I'm sick of... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Evil Adrian ( 253301 )
      I rarely even turn my cell phone on anymore... land line costs less. I use the cell phone only to call AAA or 911; if my friends need to get in touch with me, I live at home. :-)
      • I've got my phone on very nearly all the time. It's cheap, and my land-line phone is too far away from my computer. I don't answer it if I'm in the car. The only thing that's a hassle is my girlfriend is on another network and it's nearly as much to call her mobile as it is to call her land-line, which she's never anywhere near.

        Then again, we've had decent mobile phone service in the UK for a lot longer than the US has had it, so the business model (and hence pricing) is more mature.
      • Re:I'm sick of... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:06PM (#5468254)
        Some of us are away from the house so much that cell phones are a must. I'm probably at home for an hour every day when I'm not sleeping. My cell phone is probably the only way to get ahold of me within a few days. It's less a "trend" and more a byproduct of our busier lifestyle we live.
      • land line costs less

        Which is why the only number I ever give out is my mobile number. If people really want to talk to me, they will be willing to pay to phone my mobile. If they aren't willing to pay the extra, then it probably wasn't all that important. It's a simple, but effective method of call screening.

    • by sczimme ( 603413 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:04PM (#5468240)

      I'm sick of everyone I know having the expectation that they can contact me anytime and anywhere.

      This is not the technology's fault; this is YOUR FAULT. Tacitly or explicitly, you allowed this to happen. Set some ground rules with people and clarify expectations on both sides, e.g. "Don't call between 4 and 5 - that's Willy's time!". Blaming the phone itself is ridiculous.

      • by aquarian ( 134728 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:52PM (#5468467)
        If you turn the phone off, the voice mail seamlessly picks up the call. I don't see what the big deal is.

        If you can't return calls when it's convenient *to you,* get a better group of friends, or a better job. Or both. Ultimately, if you're anyone else's bitch, you have only yourself to blame.
      • by Sentry21 ( 8183 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @06:02PM (#5468734) Journal
        Hear hear! But I think the problem goes even further than that.

        I once read anarticle which spoke very poorly of people's manners regarding cellphones. But was he complaining about people who talk on them? No! His complaint was that people had the gall to call him when he was out for dinner. How dare they!

        This, quite frankly, sickened me. He bought the cellphone, he gave out his number, he brought it with him, he left it on, and he left the ringer on, yet he blames other people for their audacity to actually call him. Staggeringly stupid.

        I have a cellphone, yes. In fact, it's the only phone I have access to. When people call me, they call me at that number. When I call them back, again, that number. I, however, don't blame other people for interrupting me. My friends don't have this stupid sense of urgency in everything they do. They don't feel the need to call me and say 'hey, I rented a movie that we can watch when you get home' or 'I bought this' or 'I went there', because they know that chances are, I don't really care so much that I need to know now. I'll find out when I get home, and that's enough.

        Text messaging is a boon, because people can send me messages saying 'I rented Tuxedo' or something without me having to actively participate in a back-and-forth to discover it. I can get the message, read it, and delete it without anyone knowing, and do so at my leisure. No intrusions, but it's available, so I don't go out and rent Operation Condor and get stuck with two Jackie Chan movies on one weekend (if that matters; I like Jackie Chan).

        Most phones can be set from ring to vibe; all phones can be set from ring to don't. Many even have a 'manner mode' (on the LG TM520, hold down * for two seconds and the ringer turns off; easy, fast). USE IT. Don't complain when people call you all the time if you always answer all the time. Let it go to voicemail, let them text-message you, let them call back later. It's the recipient of the call that's falling into the trap, not everyone else.

        --Dan, who enjoys his solitude whenever he feels
      • by urbazewski ( 554143 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @07:10PM (#5469020) Homepage Journal
        I went to see Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in Nashville at a sitdown club with tables. As the performance was starting, someone at one of the front tables got a call on his cellphone, I'm not sure whether he answered it or was trying to turn it off, but Victor Wooten (Flecktones bass player) reached down, took the phone out of the guy's hand, and answered it himself, I believe he said "He can't come to the phone right now, he's at a concert..."

      • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @08:26PM (#5469332) Journal
        It's not the phone, and it's not me. It's becoming a cultural thing. It's the expectation they have that's the problem. Setting "rules" isn't going to cut it.

        Believe me, I can and do shut off the damn phone. But then I hear about it from my relatives and co-workers. "Hey, where were you? I tried to get ahold of you." putting the blame back on me. My wife/relatives simply expect to be able to contact me "just in case". It's becoming cultural and that's very hard to undo.

    • Re:I'm sick of... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ami Ganguli ( 921 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:09PM (#5468266) Homepage

      This is where the lack of SMS messaging in the U.S. leads to real differences.

      In Europe real voice calls are relatively unusual (at least amongst my friends). You send text messages for short interactions and only call when you really need to talk.

      The nice thing about text messages (like e-mail) is that they don't require any real-time response from the recipient. In a meeting? Don't feel like talking? Sleeping? No problem - the message will still be there later if you want to respond.

      It also means that I don't feel guilty about turning off my ringer. If I don't feel like takin g a call, the caller can always send me a text message. If they don't bother then it probably wasn't important anyway.

    • "I'm sick of everyone I know having the expectation that they can contact me anytime and anywhere. Sometimes I'd just like to disapear for a while and not be concerned with whether someone is trying to contact me or not."

      I don't get this attitude. Nobody, not even people with cell phones wants to be bothered all the time. That's why we have cell phones in the first place, less phone traffic. I have this problem with the landline. We're always getting these jack-ass telemarketing calls, and we all feel oblidged to answer because we don't know who's call it is we're missing.

      The noise factor can be much better managed with cell phones. For one thing, telemarketers (today) can't call them. Another is that since it's your phone you know it's your calls you're missing. You can safely turn off the phone without interrupting other people's communication.

      The point I'm getting at is that you could disappear at home with a cell phone, as opposed to having the leave the house because of the landline. That's why until I moved in with my gf that I had only a cell phone and not a landline. I hate answering the phone and taking messages for my gf, I hate answering the phone to telemarketing calls, and I hate not being able to unplug the phone. Man I wish we'd go back to just having cell phones again. My life, phone was, was a lot quieter without the landline. Damn economy.

      Just because you have a cell phone doesn't mean you instantly have more noise in your life. That's a myth that I wish people'd realize the truth about.
    • You could always, well, turn it off.
  • PATH-E-TECH (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Omikr0n ( 656115 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:32PM (#5468072)
    I find it very interesting that the not having a cell phone would remove you from the "social networks". A while ago I atteneded an excellent talk about how technology is ruining the human social structure. Namely, kids are growing up thinking that IM's and SMS's are *THE* way to communicate with other people. While this may be all fine and dandy since the technology is "cool", I think people are slowly becoming more and more anti-social. It decreases the quality of information received. Now everyone is being bombarded with all sorts of relevant and irrelevant "information" that clogs our minds and we no longer retain the ability to discern between what is important and what is not. Letting the battery die is the new taboo? PLEASE! How pathetic are we all becoming?
    • Concur. The virtualization of communication has in large part contributed to the loss of meaningful human communication. But, having said, that I am lame because I am posting electronically. So, I clearly don't know the solution to the problem.
    • Re:PATH-E-TECH (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tjansen ( 2845 )
      The main problem with people without mobile telephone is that it is so hard to meet them. A regular person is 8+ hours at work/school and thus more or less unreachable during that time. So the only way to meet them is to plan in advance, which makes things incredibly complicated. I usually don't know when I finish work the next day. And even if I think that I do, how can I contact the other person when I am coming late or cant come for some reason? What if we meet at a place that I have never been before and I don't know how to get there?
      I hate meeting people without a (mobile) telephone, it's so incredibly complicated. And I can understand why they are isolated...
      • Re:PATH-E-TECH (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gidds ( 56397 ) plan in advance, which makes things incredibly complicated.

        I think this is a major unexpected side-effect of communications technology: it reduces the time you need to plan ahead for things. When/where to meet up with your friends, what videos/food to get, &c -- all these can be decided as they happen. Conscientious time-keeping, which used to be important when arranging to meet up, is less important when you can keep track of people's whereabouts in real time. In fact, with some young people it's impossible to get them to plan anything more than half an hour in advance...

        In some ways it's ironic that roughly the same technology that lets us create and share our schedules for months and years in advance is also removing some of the need for them.

    • ruining the human social structure.

      Is technology ruining or changeing social structures? There is a difference. Email (and its lesser cousing IM) allows groups of friends to stay in contact despite constraints such as long distances, or the inability to meet in person. Cell phones allows instant communication regardless of geography. How are these tools, which promote communication, antisocial?

    • Everyone becoming anti-social makes me more normal.
    • by mekkab ( 133181 )
      You slipped this obvious troll up to a plus 5! Good for you!

      Your rhetoric is full of spark but void of content. You speak in sweeping generalizations :
      I think people are slowly becoming more and more anti-social. Have you any evidence? Or is this "just a hunch?"

      bombarded with all sorts of relevant and irrelevant "information" that clogs our minds, uhm, proof?! I happen to be of the opinion that the evolutionary function of human consciousness is to weed through vast amounts of stimuli (primarily visual) to acertain what is important.

      technology is ruining the human social structure... oh please! Yes, society is crumbling because the youth of Japan are texting!
      Yeah, technological discoveries like MEDICINE and NUTRITION have been the death of human social structure! Now we have all these damn old people! What are we going to do about the problem of roving gangs of the Aged?! And now that asthma sufferers have access to portable inhalers and diabetics have portable blood testing machines, these previously house-bound gimps are now running free! Its anarchy!

      There is one thing that should keep all of your fears at bay. And its hard-wired into humans. Its the desire, no, strike that, NEED, to get LAID. Texting is all well and good, but no one can improve upon the old style information/fluid exchange of sex.

      Society's fine. The kids are all right. The parent post should be mod'd as FUNNY.
  • I used to think that the strong and powerful were the ones with Cell phones, pagers, PDAs, etc. I now know that the truly powerful have others take care of such details. I am not numbered among the elite.
  • by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:33PM (#5468081) Journal
    article, They are technology crazed in a way most westerners can only begin to imagine. I used to think I was a techno geek, until I went to Japan. Now I feel like a luddite sometimes. The devices and the infrastructure are just not here in the west.
    • It's not much different in Europe..
    • At the university in Southern California where I work there are a lot of Asian students. I'd say they aren't much of a minority. It had been a while since I was in college, so I was fairly surprised at all the changes in the students when I starting working here last year.

      I'd say, safely, that your odds of finding an Asian student not carrying (or more likely, not actively chatting away on) a cell phone are about the same as being struck by lightning while being bitten by a shark.

      Every Asian student has a cell phone, and they all use them when walking around. I'm serious. You won't see many students walking between classes unless they have a cell phone nearby. You'll even see groups of three, four, six girls walking together... all talking on their phones. I swear they are actually talking to each other.

      When I was in school nobody had a cell phone. Now everyone does. It's amazing what ten years can do. I liked it better the old way. Then again I usually leave my cell phone in my truck, and it's never turned on anyway.


  • by Quaoar ( 614366 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:33PM (#5468083)
    ...when everyone in Japan ends up with a mysterious head cancer.
  • New necessity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nadadogg ( 652178 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:34PM (#5468087)
    It is a new common assumpion that everyone has a cell phone. Thanks to digital networks, it is affordable to even the average joe to be connected at all times. They have long since eclipsed pagers as "the thing to have", making them, in some situations, more of a status symbol than as a way to stay connected. Pagers were at one time seen to be something carried by drug dealers and doctors, but never so with cellphones. This is probably due to the fact that everyone likes to have conversations, talking or by messaging. This trend is only going to continue, and get bigger and badder, hell, even smaller as well. I think that sums it up for me.
  • I got a mobile phone when the price and charging was right for me. Before that I used my chargecard in payphones perfectly happily, the only disadvantage of that now is that less and less are being constructed.
    I had my first phone for at least three years, and when I replaced it not last month it was not because it was obsolete but because I was fed up of some of the restrictions that now don't exist. Not being able to text straight to someone in my phonebook being one, lock not locking the power button another. I am confident I shall keep my current phone for a similar length of time. I don't keep up with the Joneses, I simply take onboard new technology when I feel the time is right.
  • by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:38PM (#5468111)
    I don't think anyone cares what a few yuppie Japanese do with their cell phones. Most people use them to make phone calls.

    This isn't the "future" of society we're seeing, its just a waypoint on the path to complete ridiculousness began by an unhealthy obsession with social rules and kitschy gadgets.

    • Maybe most people in the US, but mobiles are becoming an every day item for every day people in Asia and Europe, text messaging, picture messaging, phone calls, not just yuppie Japanese, but grandmothers/fathers too primary school kids are all making use of them.
    • No, it's not just a few Japanese. I'm Norwegian, and most of the article applies here too, along with Finland and Sweden. I think those percentage
      figures in the article are pretty much the same over here, only difference is that we are only just beginning to get MMS (multimedia messages) now, which the Japanese have had for a while...

      I spent a year in the the US, and one of the biggest differences for me was that not everyone had cellphones. I remember spending an entire night by myself, missing out on whatever was happening because I just wasn't used to a mobile phone-less life. I spent that night cursing the Americans for being so "backwards"... :)

      So this isn't the future, it's the present, at least where I am.
  • by ( 562495 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:38PM (#5468113) Homepage
    serious information overload. when all you are getting is information, but you have NO time to decipher it, it is no good.....
  • Marshall (Score:5, Funny)

    by bernz ( 181095 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:39PM (#5468117) Homepage
    I keep thinking how Marshal McLuhan said that our new inventions change the way we view the world. This is 'obvious' now, but was quite a new idea when he thought of it. In the 40s and 50s you "needed" to get a (land line) phone, then it was cars, email, and now cell phones. What's next? Is it simply a matter of keeping up with the Joneses?

    I mean, d- He can give you - Do you hafta give it so loud? I mean, aren't you ashamed to pontificate like that? And - and the funny part of it is, M-Marshall McLuhan, you don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's ... work!

    [Overlapping] Wait a minute! Really? Really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called "TV Media and Culture"! So I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan - well, have a great deal of validity.

    Oh, do yuh?


    Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. So ... so, here, just let me - I mean, all right. Come over here ... a second.

    [To the man in line] I hear - I heard what you were saying. You - you know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.

    [To the camera] Boy, if life were only like this!

  • More like keeping up with the Kim's
  • I think what's next will be an always on connection to the Net, the medium thru which all electronic information ("phone" calls, "TV" and "radio" shows, live chat with your different social groups [family, office, etc.], the Web, traffic cams, baby monitors, etc.) will eventually be transported.

    Make it so you have, and maintain, a high bandwidth Net connection no matter where you go (some places might incur a surcharge, of course), and then deliver everything else thru it, and it will be more important to daily life than electricity is now.

  • by sfranklin ( 95470 )
    Cell phones don't fit into the "keeping up with the Jones" category - at least not any more. It's become practically a necessity in my line of work (software consulting), where out-of-state travel is the norm and client business is getting increasingly harder to obtain. Being constantly connected, even on the road, is something that clients want.

    And outside the workplace, it makes a lot of sense to have a cell phone these days. You can usually find a rate plan nearly as good or even better than a land line, so cost isn't a major factor. My parents got rid of their land line entirely - and so would I, if the pizza people would deliver when I use my cell. :)
    • by Sk3lt ( 464645 )
      Yeah I know exactly what you mean but that's one of the main reasons I hate my cell..

      My Staff always call me up whenever I'm trying to sleep or am busy and ask the stupidest questions heh ;)
    • You can just order your pizza over the internet, i've actually found it quicker, and they have no excuse for screwing up your order.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:54PM (#5468193) Homepage
    The social convention that you send a text message before calling is significant. What it really does is give phone calls subject lines.

    Some communications systems have subject lines. Memos and E-mails do, but phone calls and letters don't. Voicemail usually doesn't, although some online voice chat systems do have introductory messages. Telegrams didn't have subject lines. SMS, arguably, is subject lines only.

    Subject lines help enormously in managing information overload. Subject lines for phone calls could be a real win. Especially if you could input them by voice. Hmm.

  • In my pocket of the world, people are recognizing that they can survive WITHOUT cell phones. They have become a BURDON instead of a necessity.

    I think it was when Telco's starting charging $0.10 per text message, and rounding the seconds used up to the minute. People are finally sitting up and saying "whoah, this sucks".

    I know at least 30 friends and family who have given up on their cell phones. Even the "pay as you go" is not worth it because the minutes expire.

    If anyone needs me, they can call me at home or catch me at work. For emergencies I have a non-serviced cell phone (911 works WITHOUT subscribing to a service)

    Yo Grark
    Canadian Bred with American Buttering.
  • how old are we? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:03PM (#5468239) Homepage Journal
    This just goes to show that anything invented after a person is 16 is weird, and anything invented after 30 is just wrong. Increasingly cell phones, SMS, etc are as necessary for teens and young adults as land line phones were for those of us that are much older. How many of young people without land phones had social lives in the 80's. How many young people without e-mail have social lives now.

    Increasingly, especially for young people, dates are being made online. For friends, there is no reason to plan things out days in advance. Just call each other up at the spur of the moment and see who available to party. Is this good or bad? Not really either.

    I have all this technology. People can request my attention using a number of methods. However, I do consider all of these requests. It is my choice to answer phone, reply to email, whatever. This pisses people off. Just because someone asks for my attention, am I for some reason required to drop everything and respond? I think not. Rather than showing our age and railing against rational uses of technology, I think we should accept those uses and teach how to use technology rather than have technology use you.

    There was a time when people would come to your house, and, if there was time, you would put out some biscuits and make some tea and have a good sit down. This was obviously inefficient and complicated. However, I am still more inclined to talk to someone who would come to my apartment for a chat rather than randomly pick up phone and call me. OTOH, there are some conversations that are better on the phone and email. For instance, i remeber the first time a girl broke up with a friend of mine over email. It saved a useless conversation.

    • Conversely, I remember when a (self absorbed, egotistical) friend of mine wanted to break up with his (self absorbed, controlling) girlfriend. He was asking everyone for advice on how he should break up with her, and he eventually decided, "I know I can't just break up with her on the phone. I'll invite her over."

      I said, "Do it on her territory. Don't make her have to leave, drive home, etc."

      So he called her, and said he was coming over, there was something they needed to talk about. She says, "Look, if you're breaking up with me, just tell me now and get it over with."

      "Um, no, that's not it. I'll be right over."

      Boy, what a dick. There is nothing wrong with doing it the impersonal way in situations like that. She felt bad about being rejected, and then she felt bad for letting this asshole see her get upset. Hell, in that case, it might have been better if it were an SMS:
      New SMS From Alan:

      Hey girl. I h8 u. Nvr call me again.
  • by wackybrit ( 321117 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:07PM (#5468260) Homepage Journal
    It's entirely necessary if you're the sort of person who can't bear not to have contact with anyone human every 5 seconds.

    Seriously, there are a lot of people like this, even in the nerd sector. They struggle to go for a few hours without calling someone, or having a conversation.. whereas lots of us are quite happy to sit hacking Perl or playing with servers until 4am.

    So socially, no, I don't think phones are necessary, unless you're an extrovert who suffers from a loneliness complex.

    Business-wise, however, cellphones are pretty damn useful. I can give an impression of being available 24/7 wherever I am, and that's worth a lot. A cellphone also allows me to easily call back into my work answerphone and catch up on calls. That's pretty useful stuff.
    • whereas lots of us are quite happy to sit hacking Perl or playing with servers until 4am.

      I'm going to assume either sarcasm or that you're referring to geek society here. Most peoples lives revolve around their social life, not hacking on perl or playing with servers.
    • I think you make a great point. Cell phones can easily be used as a social crutch, whether to assuage loneliness or just plain old insecurity. In one article I read, Maria Kalman referred to cell phones as "pacifiers for adults" []. It's an assessment that I by and large agree with. Plenty of people use their cell phones for perfectly legitimate, business-related uses or whatever. Others are just obnoxious turds who are still laboring under the mistaken impression that a cell phone is a status symbol.

      I don't blame the technology as such, but the technology does bring out behavior in certain people that makes them more annoying than they would be without the cell phone.

      See the article for examples of what I'm talking about. My personal favorite:

      During a recent performance of "Death of a Salesman," its star, Brian Dennehy, was startled to hear a cell phone ring near the end of the second act.

      Even more disturbing was to hear the phone being answered, and a woman in the audience clearly saying, "It's almost finished," and going on to make dinner plans.

      Say what you want about the technology not being to blame -- without a cell phone, this woman would not be engaging in this type of behavior.

  • What I find odd... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:09PM (#5468267) when I see friends together at a restaurant or something, and one or both of them spend the whole time yakking to someone else on their cell phone rather than talking to the person they're actually with.

  • It's the interesting nature of communications technology--it becomes more valuable because everyone posesses it, rather than only a limited number of people having it. It's backwards from the "normal" type of service.

    The social rules that are arising from it are very intriguing, though, indicative of how popular phones and messaging are. Increasing use of text messages as a "knock" seems to be something useful evolving out of it. Sometimes I wish people would IM me before calling so I don't get distracted. (Cooperative vs. Preemptive Dfiant-tasking. ;-) It 's good that people are starting to respect each others' time a little more.

    Now can we please make the next taboo not having a hands-free headset while driving? I'd like to decrease the odds of me being splattered all over the pavement from the sociable idiot in the SUV near me who either a) drifts into my lane and almost sideswipes me, b) drives slow in the lefthand lane but fails to yield, or c) didn't know where that red light/stop sign/parking lot came from.

    For some people it's some sort of unhealthy social addiction. If you can't just run down to the store briefly without yacking away to your friend while you sift through the items on the shelf, it's just a little weird and annoying. Especially if you have friends there standing next to you. But when I'm constantly seeing peoples' lives endangered, that's where I draw the line.
  • I, for one, don't like cell phones. I carry one or call one only when I have to.

    I live in a college town and most of the college kids take them everywhere. I'm sick of hearing people take calls and talk on them at plays, movies and restaraunts. A student at the college told me that cell phones have destroyed the community atmosphere as the students are only interested in getting out of the class and getting on their cell phones.

    I think by and large we'd be better off without them.

    • Cell phones don't destroy communites. They just allow you to hold onto the friends you've made first longer instead of always having to make new ones. Tell that student to get a cell phone and some friends to call of his own and he'll be happy again.
  • by jago25_98 ( 566531 ) <> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:19PM (#5468313) Homepage Journal
    I heard that there is a difference between Japan and here:

    here we're more individual and over there they're a lot more social.

    This is really noticable if you work for a Japanese company like Sharp. Working in a factory for Toshiba we noticed that in Japan they have them all stand up at the start of the working day to say team-like stuff alligience... wierd. I think they were hoping they could inspire the same team spirit over here :D

    I'd like to say more but it'd be offtopic.
  • Once you would have a cellphone if you would like people to think you were important(silly yes). But these days I think that the truly cool people are those are those who turn it off. So what if the company can't contact you, it should be the job of the monkeys to be available 24/7.
  • by yy1 ( 238590 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:30PM (#5468369) Homepage
    Isn't this what slashdot aims to be? Using technology to help people communicate better. You see the way social networks are formed by the friends lists, the way some people are famous (or infamous) etc.

    Technology can facilitate it and broaden the scope of the social group, but it doesn't really change the social dynamic that forms time and again.

    In the case of cellphones, it lets a social group form that in previous decades might have only been able to form in a neighborhood, but cellphones let them be far flung over a large city like LA or NYC where friends live in different section and can use the cellphones to coordinate meet ups where as before everyone would just go around the corner or down the street etc...

    I sorta think of slashdot as a representative discussion group, where sometimes people say something, sometimes they moderate (vote) for someones who has said something that they think should be heard. And bouncers to chuck out the people who start shouting incoherently. Anyway it lets (or some would say attempts to let) the number of people that can have a meaningful discussion be much larger.

    This has happened with every meaningful technological invention, including WRITING. People naturally form social groups around technology, not because of technology.
  • I'm really concerned about people taking pictures of me without my consent. It's too easy to do with these new cell phones. Especially when someone might catch you in an off moment. I own a cell phone, but rarely use it. I got one for my personal use because every body else has one./p?

  • if i'm late i can ring up someone in the group i'm meeting and let them know.

    if i'm going to meet up with a friends at a houseparty i can call ahead on my way there to see if they need anything to pick up. or they can call me. or if it's my house everyone is going to i can ask someone who's coming.

    directions. going to a new place with the knowledge that i can call for help on how to get there is an amazing stress reliever.

    we might agree to meet up somewhere and discover that it's packed, lame, closed. the first ones there can redirect people to the new place.

    and on a variation, a group might agree to meet up at a pub and then go on from there to an undecided restaurant. stragglers can be called when a decision has been made.

    my phone, like 99% of phones, offers caller id. i can choose to answer who i feel like answering. my phone also offers an on/off switch. if i want to be left alone i can turn off the phone or only answer calls i want answered. even better then ignoring a landline i can explicitly reject calls i don't want so i don't have to listen to constant ringing.

    people moaning about mobiles need to get a clue.
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:38PM (#5468404) Journal
    > In the 40s and 50s you "needed" to get a (land line) phone, then it was cars, email, and now cell phones. What's next?

    It's not about keeping up just for keeping up's sake; it's new technologies that are useful and become part of most peoples' lives. To explain, let's go back in history... these things were all new-fangled at one time, but now, even though some people live without them, seem pretty "essential":

    - 4 walls and a water-proof roof.
    - clean water, delivered to your faucet.
    - sanitation system - sewer, garbage, etc.
    - health insurance, vacinations for diseases you don't even have yet!
    - 911, police, and fire services
    - a legal system, property ownership
    - currency, bank accounts, lending, credit cards
    - a regular job (as opposed to self-empolyed farmer/blacksmith/etc. and directly bartering your skills with others)
    - prerecorded music, books.
    - transportation (taxi, rail, plane, boat, postal system)
    - automation (copy machines, computers)

    The vast majority of us integrate these into our lives because we feel they have value that exceeds their costs, and not just to keep up.
  • ... I have made it well known that if I ever strike it rich I will be taking both to the firing range - one last time.

  • It's articles like this that make me glad I don't have to have a cell phone for work (because I wouldn't choose to have one on my own).

    Feeling like you "have to" have your little digital gadget in order to feel "connected to the world" is something I find not only humorously ironic, but it also smacks of being a slave to your own technology, which is an idea I find unpleasant. Cell phones can be great tools, but they're not status symbols anymore (at least, not in the positive sense), and they should not be running your life.
  • by Scodiddly ( 48341 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:32PM (#5468638) Homepage
    A lot of people here bitching about cell phones are probably those who have fairly regular locations (normal office hours, then home).

    I do stagehand work, among other things. Most stagehands around here carry cellphones, and that's the primary contact for the union business agent (BA). In this case it's important to be reachable, and the BA rarely wastes one's time on the phone anyway.

    I'd much rather be able to be anywhere - home, at another gig, downtown in a tea shop, etc. than have to be constantly checking my messages at home. I suppose they had methods before telephones became common, but I have better things to do than drop by the union hall every morning to see if there's work.
  • Consider this... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Kow ( 184414 ) <> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @06:16PM (#5468797)
    Some people use cell phones as a means to contact people when it is most convenient. They do not project some sort of social status upon it, they do not attempt to impress people with it, they do not answer it when they don't want to, and they don't perceive their friends hate them if they don't answer immediately.

    I can't understand why everybody (who's posting, at least) has this big hang-up on cell phones. It's like this approach to being 'cool' by hating that which is perceived as 'cool'. Is it okay to be 'geek' and not be a social troglodyte?

    It feels like middle school, where everyone was so afraid that they saw uncertainty through 'threat' goggles.
  • SMS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @06:34PM (#5468878) Homepage
    I really don't feel the need to be availible 24/7. I forget to charge my battery from time to time, or turn sound back on after having silenced it in lectures etc.

    That said, I read SMS messages on a regular basis. Why? Because those I can ignore, read, reply as I choose. While not great for long conversations, something like a short message and a reply is easier over SMS than over the phone.

    "I'll be about 15 mins late today" "Ok, I'll be in the computer lab" is typically what I want to do with a mobile phone. Not talking for hours, if I wanted to do that I'd normally be at home with a normal phone anyway. So while cell calls are overrated, cell phones are not.

  • For what it's worth (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Asahi Super Dry ( 531752 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @09:51PM (#5469581)
    I lived in Japan for a year and I can verify that you pretty much need a cell phone if you want to conduct any sort of social life. It's a kind of ritual to exchange numbers very shortly after meeting a new person: you'd slip right through the cracks without a cell phone. And as has been posted elsewhere, text messaging completely overshadows voice conversations in terms of frequency of use/effectiveness. After you get used to it you can type quicker than you might think on the keypad (though somehow it seems that Japanese is a little better suited to that sort of entry). Their phones are also years ahead of what's available in the US.
  • by MythosTraecer ( 141226 ) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @10:46PM (#5469758)
    Is it simply a matter of keeping up with the Joneses?

    I think the most positive aspect of cell phones are that you can keep up with the Joneses, but not in the way you think.

    When landline-based telephones started to become widespread, they allowed people to communicate over long distances. You could keep up with Mom, Dad, Grandma, and your friends in another state. But only if they were home. Answering machines partially solved this problem, because you could leave messages, but it isn't the same. Cheap, affordable cell phones have allowed the world to keep in touch much more easily than ever before.

    I'll use myself as an example. I live in the Western USA, while most of my family and some of my friends live in the Eastern USA. Most of us work weird schedules; some work 12-hour hospital shifts, some work 3rd shift, others normal shifts. There's no real way to keep track of when someone's available and when they're not. Calling a person's house doesn't mean much; is the person at work, or are they just not home? Call their cell phone. If they can talk, they'll answer their phone and talk. If they can't talk, you can leave a message and know they'll get your message as soon as possible, not when they get home (whenever that is). None of us would ever be able to actually talk to each other without cell phones; we're hardly ever home at the same time.

    A lot of people don't like cell phones; they don't like the potential of being bothered every minute by others. That's fine (though if you need privacy for awhile, you can just turn your phone off). But many people enjoy the being able to keep in touch with friends and family much easier. Being able to immediately reach the actual person you want to talk to anywhere on the planet at any time has caused the world to be just a bit smaller. This positive benefit outweighs most of the negatives, IMHO.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.