Just me and my cell phone, strolling down the avenue

Joan Eisenstodt put a link to an interesting article on cell phones and kids on the MIMlist today.

Since this is the third time in as many days this topic has come up for me--how weird--I'll bite. I believe that cell phones are doing nothing less than rewiring the way our brains work--and not just the kids.

Cell phone use is training people to never fully be where they are, at that moment. Instead, at least part of their brain is on the conversation they're having--which, for the most part of what I inadvertantly overhear, is on such scintillating topics as, "I'm getting on the plane now. I'll call when we land." "OK, we just landed. I'll call you when I get to the car."

We're communicating more, and saying less, all the time. And live interactions are falling away--from airport conversations with strangers to saying "thanks" to a retail clerk, because we're too busy on our cell phones to acknowledge those around us or even--heaven forefend!--talk to them. Even during breaks at meetings, I sometimes find it hard to find someone not "en-phoned" to discuss what we just learned.

When I see five men eating at a restaurant, and each is on his cell talking with someone else, I can't help but wonder what this is doing to the nature of social dynamics--and what it'll do to meetings eventually. Already, at least one person in every session I've been to lately has been so addicted to the cell that they can't bear to turn it off for 45 minutes. Even when it doesn't ring, they're constantly checking messages. Pretty soon, the speaker will have to IM the audience to get their attention!

Cells are great for emergencies, and for a lot of daily situations. But the way they're being used suggests that we, consciously or not, are coming to believe that whatever is happening elsewhere to other people is more important and/or more interesting than what is happening to us in real life, right here, right now. IMHO, that is not a good thing. But maybe I'm just a Luddite.

What do you think?

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