In Defense of the Omnipresent Cell Phone (and Those Who Use It)

Bear with me as I walk you through some familiar scenarios:

1985: Your boss calls and interrupts your dinner to ask if you can pick up extra shifts.

2022: Your boss texts while you’re having lunch with your grandparents and asks if you can pick up extra shifts.

1998: You and your spouse sit at the breakfast table drinking coffee and trading sections of the newspaper.

2022: You and your spouse sit at the breakfast table scrolling the news headlines on your phone.

1990: You and your college classmate meet at the library to research the paper you’re writing together.

2022: You e-mail some links to articles to your classmate via your phone.

1982: You decide to make a mix tape of your favorite songs, so you sit by the radio all day waiting for them to play so you can record them on a cassette.

2022: You scroll through the app on your phone adding songs to your workout playlist.

1975: You handwrite invitations to your birthday party and spend an afternoon stuffing envelopes.

2022: You create a post on your social media platforms inviting people to your birthday party, reaching nearly all your friends at once.

1994: You scan the yellow pages to choose a restaurant and then call to make a reservation.

2022: You Google restaurants near you on your phone and reserve a table on their website.

1983: You clear three hours out of your evening to watch “Must See TV” on Thursday night.

2022: You wile away three hours laughing at YouTube and TikTok videos on your phone.

2005: Your doctor gives you a prescription and you drive straight to the store to pepper your pharmacist with questions about its safety and usage.

2022: Your doctor gives you a prescription and you go out to the parking lot and start reading medical blogs to learn about safety and usage.

1988: You take your Nikon camera on your day trip to the zoo so you can take pictures of the animals, careful not to waste a single shot on that roll of film.

2022: You spend a few minutes at the end of the day deleting and editing the pictures you took at the zoo on your phone.

1996: Someone asks if you can meet a week from today for coffee. You promise to check your calendar or day timer when you get home and let them know.

2022: Someone asks if you can meet a week from today for coffee. You pull up the calendar on your phone and confirm right then and there.

1987: You decide to take notes during the meeting, so you pull out a pen and legal pad. Later, you type it into the computer and print it out. You Xerox a copy to share with the teammate who was sick that day.

2022: You decide to take notes during the meeting, typing them directly into your phone and sharing them later with your teammate.

You get where I’m going with this, right? “These kids today,” are not necessarily abusing their cell phones. It’s just that what once required several tools, devices, mechanisms, and even modes of transportation can now all be done on our phones.

I guess I’m just asking for a little respect when you see someone’s phone come out. Rather than assuming they’re just “wasting time” or “feeding their addiction,” maybe ask, “Are you doing something important, or can I interrupt?” or “Are you expecting any important texts, or can we make dinner tonight a phones-free event?”

On the flip side, if you need to check your phone in front of someone, acknowledge you’re not dismissing them. It’s no different than when our land lines used to ring, and we’d say, “I’m so sorry. Hold on a minute, I have to take this call.”

And if your mother asks you to empty the dishwasher, either do that first and then record your latest video or ask if you can finish your video and then empty the dishwasher.

It’s all about respect, people. I never walked in and just shut off the TV when my kids were watching a show. If I wouldn’t do that to my husband, why would I do that to my kids? I warned them, “When that show is over, I need you to come set the table.”

Afterall, it’s not just our young people who need and use their cell phones. We “older folks” do it, too. One time, I asked for no phones at the dinner table, and I’m the one who broke the rule when I grabbed my phone to show my kids a picture of parachute pants (they didn’t believe me). We wound up having a good laugh.

And if the young people in your lives are just “wasting time” on their phones, does it really matter all that much if it isn’t excessive, addictive, or rude? I know I wasted plenty of time watching TV when I was their age, or running into the store with friends to buy junk food, or driving aimlessly around town burning up gas because I didn’t want to go home yet. The only thing that has changed is that all our “time-wasting” distractions – video games, movies, apps, music, social interaction – are now all in one place. Welcome to the 21st Century!

P.S. Are any of you reading this on your phone? If so, please share!

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