© 2019 by Joel Thiessen. All rights reserved.

Buying a Cell Phone

October 12, 2013

Don’t let the title fool you, but it is true – I don’t actually own a cell phone, and I am constantly singled out for not owning one. Why, after all, would a sociologist who studies society and culture not own what is believed by many to be a lifeline in the 21st century? Truth be told, I raced to buy a cell phone over a decade ago as a university student. It was sleek (for the day), had voice recognition, and had catchy ring tones; I strutted around thinking that I was a cool eighteen year-old talking on my phone as I walked from residence to campus, but then I reached a point where I didn’t see the need to incur this additional cost. The honest response to why I haven’t purchased a cell phone since is because I’m too cheap and I like my space – my home phone is sufficient and people can leave a message if they really want to talk to me.

 

Times have changed. I’m on the outside of Canadian society and disconnected from those around, unless I borrow my wife’s phone to text friends or family, or check breaking news stories, or track live sporting events, or receive phone calls from family, or use the GPS to help my hopeless navigation skills. Apparently her data use is close to the monthly maximum because of me.

 

Why buy a cell phone now? I suppose I’ve succumbed to peer pressure. In today’s culture I am not well informed on technology and social media and I feel excluded from conversations. Hence I launched a personal website, joined twitter, started this blog, and am on the verge of purchasing a cell phone. Hopefully these initiatives will help me in my attempt to remain relevant, not for the cool factor, but to broaden my horizon and understanding of the culture in which I live and to maximally engage students in and outside the classroom. And of course, it will help me to connect with others in ways that I currently do not … and to call for help when I am lost looking for an elusive address in my own city. I must admit that I prefer to text than pick up a telephone. When I travel there are occasions where I want to spontaneously send a picture back home. I like to track live events as they happen wherever I am.

 

Still, the sociologist in me is keenly aware of social perception versus social reality. The perception is that we ought to be connected and available all the time and to have access to information immediately otherwise life will be less enjoyable and efficient. In reality this social construction is ridiculous. Generation upon generation survived just fine without these pressures in place, yet individuals in society today are convinced of these cultural ideals. Incidentally some are reacting against this now – leaving facebook, abandoning their cell phones, turning from instantaneous availability and access to information. I applaud such counter-cultural moves, though I’m curious of what it’s like to be part of the technological and social media age, even for only a short period of time … in moderation.

 

My cell phone era is about to begin. I’m already annoyed that I’ll need to pay more money every month, though I will purchase a plan where the phone is free. Hopefully it doesn’t change who I am, to get caught up with having the latest and greatest gadget just because. But I do hope that I gain a greater understanding of society today … and to text those close to me, to track the latest news and sports and weather, and yes to find my way home from wherever I may be lost.

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JOEL THIESSEN, PhD
sociologist