Danger in Cell Phone La La Land

Cell Phone Madness

Danger in Cell Phone La La LandLA Progressive, by Shawn Hamilton, 

Lately I’ve encountered a surprising number of people in public who seemed to be talking to themselves. Often when this happens, I assume these folks are talking to me, so I respond in some way as polite custom dictates, only to be ignored—or to receive a disapproving glance for having invaded someone’s privacy bubble. Usually by this point I would realize the person was talking on a cell phone or similar electronic device, and I would feel like a fool.

I first apprehended the potentially adverse social consequences of personal electronic devices in, appropriately, 1984. I was attending Humboldt State University, and I noticed a classmate wearing Walkman headphones day after day and commented in class that he seemed to be using them to tune the rest of us out. For me this was the beginning of what I now see as a deleterious trend that is getting so much worse than I initially anticipated.

In the 1990s I boarded a train in Taiwan and got a preview of the cell phone madness that would soon afflict the States. Bizarre sounds began to erupt all over the car—ringing, buzzing, beeping, Beethoven. These noises would happen, and there would be several people engaging in solo conversation, often in loud and sometimes angry voices. Acknowledging cultural relativity, I unsuccessfully resisted the feeling that imposing one’s personal conversation on others is a bit churlish.

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It can happen so quickly. The man standing on the sidewalk has not yet had time to react.