Internet IRL: iPhones: High-tech cocaine

April 7, 2011

I have a confession to make—I’ve been sleeping with my cell phone most nights. Yes, it may seem like we’re never apart. I can talk to it for hours, and I can’t keep my hands off it. I can’t be away from it, even at night. I think I’m in love.

And I’m not the only one who’s been engaging in such a, er, modern romance. This weekend, I noticed my neighbor Tristan Deppe (COL ’12) had phone numbers written all over his arms. When I asked him about his interesting choice of body art, he told me that it was because his phone was broken due to “water damage.” Left phoneless, he needed a way to keep track of girls’ numbers, and this was his solution.

Tristan didn’t seem all that upset that his link to civilization had drowned. In fact, he seemed pretty relieved about it. For him, this weekend was an experiment in roughing it—Survivorman: College edition.

Today, Tristan has rejoined the 21st century and gotten a new phone. He handled the situation pretty maturely, but some recent studies show that many people are not prepared to be away from their devices. This Tuesday, Science Daily reported that according to findings by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland, college students around the world describe symptoms that point to addiction when they are forced to “abstain” from using media. Different students said they experienced depression or loneliness without their phones.

This March, high school senior Michelle Hackman won second place in the Intel Science Talent Search for her study on similar behavior. According to Hackman, her classmates who were away from their phones went through symptoms similar to withdrawal, with many subjects experiencing anxiety.

I’m going to make an assumption that most of us are, at least a little bit, addicted to our phones. I’ll be the first one to own up—I won’t go anywhere without my phone. It provides me endless distraction—texting, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Angry Birds, Words With Friends, email, and more.

These things are all pretty insignificant—they don’t make me money, and they aren’t directly related to anything I’m interested in, but I keep tapping away. It’s ironic that we invest so much into activities like this, when, judging from Tristan’s testimony, it’s possible to have a lot of fun without a phone. In fact, not having one actually improved his weekend.

Looking toward the future, our addiction to media and communication-with-ease may end up consuming our ability to socially interact independent of these tools and devices. People may not be able to maintain friendships without tools, and planning a meet-up may become obsolete in favor of finding someone on a map of campus a la the Marauders Map from Harry Potter.

The point is, before you bust out your phone to scan that QR code, ask yourself if it’s actually worth it. Banners with Facebook and Twitter buttons are becoming our drug pushers. Every instance is arguably helpful, but overall, cell phones might be more trouble than they’re worth. Plus, you’ll totally stand out to a girl if you write her number down on your arm.

Show Nico where on your flesh you wrote down his number at ndodd@georgetownvoice.com


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nico dodd,
shut up