www.whyville.net Sep 21, 2008 Weekly Issue

City Worker Writer

Phones: Communication Devices to Status Symbols

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I was browsing the Internet the other day, and came upon this article, http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/patterson/26932 ("Teen Survey: Cell Phones Cooler Than Jewelry, Shoes"). It got me thinking . . . when did a phone become a symbol of "coolness"?

When I was a senior in high school (now 7 years ago -- please keep old age jokes at a minimum), cell phones were just beginning to rise on the "cool" meter. I didn't have one, and my social life was fine. A few of my more privileged friends had one, but they by no means had a leg-up on me when it came to having friends. In reality, they were just held more accountable to letting their parents know where they were at all times. I had an excuse if they couldn't find me . . .

Sure, I wanted one, but I understood why I couldn't. The lowest plan at the time was $50 a month, plus the price of the phone . . . there was no way my parents were going to pay for that, and my part-time job was already paying for a car and other things. So, I got along without it.

It definitely would have been helpful when my car broke down . . . twice. Or when I lost my friends at the State Fair. When those things happened I dealt with it. I didn't have a cell phone to bail me out. Somehow my ingenuity got me through; I made life work with what I had.

Now, the cell phone will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of its invention this October. It is amazing to think about all of the innovations and advancements in technology that have come about in that time. Now we can email and text on our phones; we can even download music and take pictures. Who knows where we will be in another 25 years?

According to a national survey conducted by CTIA (the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry), approximately 79% of teenagers (roughly 17 million) have cell phones. That equates to an increase of 36% since 2005. (http://www.ctia.org/advocacy/research/index.cfm/AID/11483) Today's generation of teenagers are the first to grow up with cell phones as a part of their daily lives. It is apparent to me, that being surrounded by cell phones from a young age have made teenagers susceptible to their almighty influence.

To read that today's teenagers not only need to have a cell phone, but that it has to be the newest and most expensive cell phone to be considered "cool" just makes me uneasy. It is a phone . . . it isn't something that describes you or shows what kind of person you are. It is a object used for communication. Don't get me wrong, it is a very useful object, but having one that is a year old doesn't mean you aren't as smart, funny or interesting as the girl or guy who has the new enV or iPhone. Are cell phones the new cars or clothing; have they become the ultimate status symbol?

I interviewed a few Whyvillians about cell phones to find out their opinion on the subject.

AMae: Do you own a cell phone? If so, what kind?

msof57: Yes. A silver Motorola RAZR. (It's my dad's old phone.)
Morgan612: Yes. I have an LG Scoop.
Holiday50: Yes. Motorola MOTO Z6w.
ushersg: Of course! It's the EnV2.
ps2man1: Yes. It's a black 8GB iPhone 3G.
rochrox: I don't have my own personal cell phone right now, but I'm asking for one for Christmas.

AMae: Do you parents pay for your cell phone?

msof57: Yes. But sometimes I pitch in and help.
Morgan612: Yes.
Holiday50: Yes.
ushersg: Yes.
ps2man1: I paid for the phone and the unlimited texting, they pay for the service.
rochrox: I still get an allowance from my parents, so if I were to get a cell phone, they would pay for that instead of giving me money every week for an allowance.

AMae: Do your friends have their own cell phones?

msof57: Most of mine do. I have a couple who don't.
Morgan612: Yes.
Holiday50: Yes they do.
ushersg: Yup.
ps2man1: Yes, all of them do except one or two.
rochrox: Most do.

AMae: If you could have any cell phone, which one would you want?

msof57: I'm perfectly happy with mine. I even turned down an iPhone because I like mine so much!
Morgan612: I don't care what cell phone I have as long as it functions, and I can call people on it.
Holiday50: I'd want the Apple iPhone 3G.
ushersg: I'm pretty content with my phone, it's really new and works great - fancier phones are too complicated to me and seem pointless for someone my age.
ps2man1: I'm totally content with my iPhone 3G.
rochrox: I don't want a flip or slide phone - I want one where the screen swivels 180 degrees, sort of like in the Nancy Drew movie. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any around in a couple of years, but that'd be my ideal phone.

AMae: Do you think someone is "cooler" by what kind of cell phone they have?

msof57: Of course not. It just proves what kind of money they will put into a cell by calling someone with a phone with flashy buttons and cool sounds.
Morgan612: Nope.
Holiday50: No. Having a more expensive phone doesn't show status. Really, it's the phone that's "cooler," not it's owner.
ushersg: I don't think that someone is "cool" based on their phone - it's JUST a phone!
ps2man1: Nah . . . just that their cell phone is cooler. rochrox: Not at all. I think iPhone's are pretty cool, but I don't think it's very cool to pay $75 a month to use one.

AMae: Would you feel embarrassed if your phone was not the newest model?

msof57: No, mine's already old!
Morgan612: Nope.
Holiday50: No, because for the past few years I've been using an ancient cellphone. It's hard to keep up with the latest model because a new one comes out every year.
ushersg: No, I wouldn't feel embarrassed, however I don't know how I would survive without "newer" features that come on newer models on phones because I have come so accustomed to them.
ps2man1: No, but I would kind of be embarrassed if it was very old.
rochrox: Maybe if my phone was a dinosaur from 5 or 6 years ago, but a couple of years old, of course not. Again, I don't think it's "cool" to replace your cell phone every year, if it's in good condition.

AMae: What do you use your cell phone for (personal use, safety, etc.)?

msof57: I take it to school with me to call my parents if they're not there to pick me up on Fridays. And I occasionally text but not often because I'm extremely slow. Luckily, I've never had to use it in an emergency but it's comforting to know you have it in case there is one.
Morgan612: I'm not like the usual teenagers that uses their phones 24/7. I use my phone to call my mom to tell her when to pick me up, etc. I use texting a little bit, and I talk to only my close friends on the phone usually.
Holiday50: I use my cellphone to stay connected with my friends and family. I make plans with my friends and talk and text to them. I also use my phone for it's features, such as it's camera.
ushersg: Obviously, I would use my cell phone if there is an emergency but it I use it to call my friends, play games when I'm bored, take pictures if there's no camera nearby, and mostly text. Texting is my passion - it's easy and fun. My mom disconnected our home phone because we all use all of our cell phones so much individually that it seemed like a house phone is unnecessary!
ps2man1: Personal use, texting, Internet browsing when I'm away from my laptop, games, and as an iPod.
rochrox: Many a-time I have been in a situation where a cell-phone would've come in handy; being at a store and needing to call my parents for clarification on something they wanted, missing what would've been a great picture, trying to locate one of my friends, or making plans to do something after school, and having to let my parents know.

Thank you all for your participation. It makes me very happy to read theses responses. It shows that Whyville is more mature than what this study suggested. I'm not too removed from high school to understand that your possessions often define who you are, but this just seems to have gone too far. It's time to stand up to the media, to the hype, and to your peers. Be proud to have an old cell phone, one that has an antennae you have to raise and buttons big enough to see 10 feet away. Be happy that your phone is big enough to find in your already stuffed-full purse. Relish in the fact that your only ring tone sounds like an old Mario song (it is still cool to be vintage, right?). But more than anything, be grateful for having a device that contributes to your safety.

I get it . . . we all want to be adored by our peers, but it is my hope that you, the citizens of Whyville, can make a change and learn to like people for what really matters.

What do you think about cell phones and their affect on teenagers? Please share your opinions in the BBS.

And please . . . all of my above ranting aside, do not text and drive. Case in point -- http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/09/15/train.collision/index.html?iref=newssearch.

Yours in Whyville,

Author's Note: Source for picture: http://www.techchee.com/2007/12/04/mini-old-brick-style-cellphone/


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