Essay: Matt Gilbert

Matt Gilbert
Living Through Technology: 4874

The Damaging Effects of Cellular Phones and Technology

First, it was the e-mail. Then came the cellular phone. And with that cellular phone, came the inevitable addiction of the text message. What technology has been able to accomplish, even in the last ten years, is nothing short of remarkable. Devices evolve and improve every year (less than a year in some cases), and “things” are invented to make our lives easier. And easier equals happiness, right? Think about what our technology will be like in another ten years. It will probably be comical to look back at what we have right now. Our minds are growing exponentially as new technology continues to be unveiled, but this is not entirely positive, because we have a major problem among society. When a moment of face-to-face communication is presented, a large portion of society is unable to succeed at this level of communication. Simply put, we currently rely on text messaging and e-mails to solve our problems, and this sort of technology is taking a hold of our lives.

Personally, I feel as though there is a major gap that separates my generation from that of my parents’. My father (may his soul rest in peace) was tough on me throughout my life, but this only made our relationship stronger, and I gained a deep respect for him. Don’t get me wrong, he was a “gentle giant”, but he had no trouble telling me to “suck it up” when one of life’s hardships was thrown my way. My point is that, throughout most of my childhood, I was destined to have all the strengths I needed to have a smooth face-to-face conversation, whatever the reason or topic may be. However, technology was booming during my teenage years, and it seemed as though texting became the new fad. Our society as a whole was fascinated by this idea of communicating through typing words on a phone keypad. But we craved more, and that’s when the era of the smart phone began.

I watched as a few of my friends were lucky enough to get their hands on the new iPhone. Personally, I was completely content with my Samsung “flip-phone”, as long as I was able to text my high-school girlfriend for hours on end. It never once entered my mind that technology was gaining control over me, and I refused to believe that it was. Then I started to notice certain subtleties about my relationship with my high-school girlfriend. Whether it was a serious issue or an innocent joke, my ability to communicate with her was flawless through text messaging. However, when we met face-to-face we had little to discuss, and there were often increased moments of silence. Now, part of this was due to the awkwardness of the first relationship we have in life, but much of this correlated directly to the use of my cell phone and text messaging.

Think about the ease that the cell phone has given us. In one instance, a man (let’s call him Bob) is feeling a sense of nervousness to contact a woman whom he is interested in (let’s call her Sally). However, Bob and Sally have mutual friends. One of these mutual friends gives Bob the phone number of Sally. Now, Bob’s fate depends upon his ability to send Sally an appropriate TEXT MESSAGE or Bob will ultimately FAIL. In another instance, Student A is worried about performing well in a class. This student is nervous about discussing this with his professor. If the student meets with the professor in person, he/she knows that they will be unable communicate verbally in the way that they had originally intended. The solution is a simple e-mail. It is composed in the comfort of the student’s apartment, or library or dorm room, and sent off to the professor for an awaiting reply. In an article by Jaime Ortega Simo, a writer for the Daily Journalist, he interviewed a range of professors and psychologists. Gary Small, a professor in psychiatry and director at the David Geffen School of University of California Los Angeles, says, “People that overuse text messages have a harder time communicating and talking. There are students that can’t stop text messaging in class; not even for five minutes. It’s fine to text in moderation, but don’t over do it. And, don’t break up through text messaging, have the courage to have a conversation.” Now this is nothing more than common sense. The older generations are not struggling with this problem, because they already established the face-to-face conversational skills that they needed “pre-cell phone” era, but even they are beginning to conform to the societal needs of this technology. And while I believe that the endeavors of our generation will be successful, I do not fault the older folks of society for viewing us as stubborn or different, etc. etc. In fact, that is the give and take of my generation. We will become far more advanced than previous generations because of technology. However, this runs the risk of us becoming too dependent on technology. Our text messaging problem will only increase, and face-to-face communication may eventually die out. As for future generations, technology will be inscribed within them from the beginning of life. Jon Miller, PhD, a researcher at the Institute for Social Research for Political Studies, discusses an intriguing point. He says, “When you grow up with technology, using it feels natural.” The children that are being born right now will view the ever-evolving smart phone in the same way that they view houses and cars.

Let’s also notice the negative effects that are not directly correlated with technology as a whole. A decade ago, a texting-while-driving casualty was rarely ever reported. In fact, it seems as though in just the past two years, there are an increased number of reported automobile crashes due to texting. So why do we continue to text and drive when we are well aware of the risk involved? It’s simple; we crave the attention. If we wait too long to reply, maybe the individual on the receiving end will lose interest. In my class, Living Through Technology, we watched a video on YouTube where talk show host Conan O’Brien interviews comedian, Louis C.K. In this interview, Louis C.K. speaks about his hatred of cell phones. He proceeds to tell a story where he heard a song by Bruce Springsteen on the radio. It reminded him of high school, and he instinctively picked up his cell phone and “texted fifty people” while driving. (you can view the video here: This, of course, is an exaggeration, but this goes to show that we are addicted to technology. For me personally, whenever I view a funny video or stumble upon a new song, there is that one friend that I instantly think about. For that designated friend, a text immediately follows, usually within a minute of discovering the initial phenomena. Maybe they also found the video funny or loved the new song as much as I did. As a result, when I receive their text, I experience instant gratification. On the contrary, maybe they hated the song or found the video to be stupid. If I receive that text, my feeling would be composed of disappointment. Through texting alone, we have become increasingly selfish; we seem to put a higher value on our opinions. Had this transaction been performed through face-to-face communication, the outcome would be vastly different. The feeling of joy from agreement would be heightened in a situation of face-to-face communication, and the feeling of disappointment from the disagreement could be easily resolved in various ways.

In conclusion, I believe that this problem is comparable to the one that exists between society and the environment. Some recognize that there is a problem, and some do not. A small portion of society will attempt to change or solve that problem. Of those, only a few will actually follow through with a plan. In fact, I’ll be honest; I am not passionate enough about changing to do anything about this problem. While I despise texting and driving, I will admit that I have done it despite my hatred for it. I will admit that I have sent e-mails or texted someone, to take “the easy route.” But through self-reflection, I have learned that it is valuable to feel the pressure of a face-to-face conversation. I remember what my father instilled in me at a young age, and I realize that verbal communication skills will make me stronger. So, although the use of texting and cell phones have hindered my communication somewhat, I feel like I have improved tremendously. So go out and spend a few days in the woods. Play sports. Go take your dog for a walk. Read a book. And most importantly, just put the phone down for a little while and take in the world around you. Take control of technology, don’t let it take control of you.


Faber, Sheryl. "How Text Messaging Is Affecting Communication Between Parents & Children." Everyday Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

"Louis C.K. Hates Cell Phones." YouTube. YouTube, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Simo, Jaime Ortega. "Experts Agree Text Messages Are Bad for Interaction and Health." RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.