Inventing ways to compliment our lives

John Rafferty

It’s just me and the Unabomber now.

That is to say, I’m pretty sure we are the only two people (excluding the Amish, obviously) left on this planet who don’t have cell phones. And that’s because the communication technology boom is out of control.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but somewhere in the last few years, it became an unspoken social law that you have to have a cell phone. It doesn’t matter if you need one or not – you just have to have one. Even if you have no use for a cell phone, you have one just to go along with the elaborate charade created by all the people who pretend they need them. The idea is not to disrupt the herd.

And that’s not all. Along with a cell phone, you’ll need an e-mail address that you must check constantly and vigilantly, a super-long buddy list, which you can use to talk to a hundred people at once about nothing, and oh yeah, getting back to your cell phone, you’re also going to have to use it to write and receive stupid messages thanks to text messaging. And it doesn’t stop there.

The new thing now is the cell phone that takes pictures, because everyone needs a cell phone that takes pictures, right? I know that’s what’s been missing from my life. I mean, what a brilliant combination. The really sad thing is that even the advertisements for this technology are telling us how stupid and unneeded it is.

There are two commercials that demonstrate this clearly. One shows a girl using her cell phone with its incredible picture-taking technology to photograph a goofy-looking stranger and then sending it to her friend so they can laugh at him. The second depicts a husband taking a picture of his son at the little boy’s piano recital and then relaying it to his mother who can’t be there. Now, you might be thinking that this second one sounds sweet and maybe shows a good reason for having this technology, but what you’re failing to realize is how utterly stupid this entire scenario is. Why can’t the husband just take the pictures with a camera and then show them to her later? I mean, she is his wife. I think he’s going to see her in the not too distant future since they do live together and everything. He could just show her the pictures then. (After all, it’s just a still photograph.) What does it matter if she sees a picture of what’s happening as, or very close, to when it’s happening? If anything, showing her the picture then is just morbid. It’s saying: “Look at what you’re missing right now. Don’t you wish you were here, instead of being a bad parent who’s missing a defining moment of their child’s life because they’re stuck doing something else?” It’s horrible. And if you missed this when you saw the commercial, don’t worry. Your common sense was just cleverly sandbagged by sentimental, tacky advertising crap.

But the question is: How did we get here? How did we allow ourselves, and our lives, to become so saturated and now actually dominated by this needless communication technology?

Well, I’ll tell you. What happened, and what happens whenever stupid crap overruns the world, is that something gets hyped enough and in an effective enough way that a small group of people get it. And then some more people get it just because the other person got it and they feel they have to compete consumer-wise with them.

Then even more people get it for the same reason and this cycle keeps repeating until everybody has a cell phone, except me. Then I get real angry about this fact and have to write a sarcastic and condemning article about it. So, in the end no one wins. What must be realized is that this principle of competitive consumerism is the backbone of our uber-conscious consumer world. The same thing happened with Nike pumps about 10 years ago. Like cell phones, the Nike pump was an idea that seemed awesome in the abstract but was just plain stupid and ridiculous in reality.

I can remember a day when only Zach Morris’ dad had a cell phone. Now, it’s a not-so-uncommon occurrence to see two people talking on cell phones when they’re right next to each other. It’s all so pointless. We’re just inventing ways to complicate our lives. And we’re doing so because, for whatever reason, we feel the need to feel unbearably busy and important. This is the charade I mentioned earlier. It’s like an illusion that no one wants to break. We want to feel absolutely connected, but the sad irony is that this technology is just causing a communication breakdown. When was the last time you wrote someone a letter? Or took the time to have a real, in-depth phone conversation?

The bottom line is that we’ve gone too far with all this communication technology. That’s why I’m going back to two Styrofoam cups attached by a string. Or maybe I’ll upgrade to walkie-talkies – but just because they’re so cool.