Shut up for a second and read this

Adam Griffiths

Now that I have your attention, wherever you are right now, stop reading and look around. Count the number of people talking on cell phones and sending text messages.

In 2006, there were nearly 300 million people in the United States. By the end of last year, 233 million people subscribed to wireless plans, according to data from the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. That’s 78 percent of the population.

Those subscribers used 1.8 trillion minutes throughout the year. What does that mean? At any given moment, almost 3.5 million people are talking on their cell phones.

But we all know that anyone who’s anyone sends text messages to all their friends rather than wasting time talking to one person. American cell phone users send 159 billion text messages a year. That’s 5,000 messages sent and received each second.

Take another look around.

What the hell are we talking about?

Granted, wireless communication has become the norm (13 percent of U.S. households are wireless only and have no landline). Like an ever-increasing number of routine habits, if we can’t do it on the go, there’s a pretty good chance we’re not doing it. We eat on the go. We listen to music on the go. We wear pedometers so we feel like we’re exercising as we go about our daily lives.

The more we can do at once the better, and innovations that foster this idea and are functionally convenient are nearly always a hit. Facebook launched its applications in May to give users the option to personalize the digital equivalent to the high school cafeteria, and now there are more than 6,000 options. Smartphones put e-mail, text messaging, photos, data and more at our disposal 24/7 no matter where we are, and more than 37 million devices were sold in 2006.

In the one of the new man-on-the-street ads for the iPhone, a random user highlights the advantages of the all-in-one device.

“At one point, I had a little bag to carry everything around with me,” he said. “I had the iPod. I had a camera. I had a regular phone, and then a phone I used for e-mails and text messaging and stuff like that. Four things.”

So not only do we want to talk less and less to the people in our lives, we can’t be bothered to carry more than one peripheral.

The real questions is whether or not we just get lazier and lazier or we’re simply adapting to progress. All these things are part of the umbrella of the so-called digital lifestyle.

But this is life. I make less and less eye contact with other people on campus because of gadgets, but at the same time, I have the majority of my serious conversations with people via text messaging. Our digital nature is a necessary evil when you contrast our generation to our parents’ and grandparents’ but pales in comparison to the versatility of our younger brothers and sisters. To them, it’s already second nature.

“I want to get up. Grab my wallet and my iPhone and walk out of my house and jump in my car and go,” the iPhone commercial continues.

Who doesn’t?

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].