Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

43° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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With everyone connected, the world cells out



Will Reichel is a Speech senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

I’d like to sing a song to all you lonely people out there about a little thing I like to call Auditory Masturbation. Yee haw!

I remember the first time I saw a cellular phone. It had treads like a New Balance All Terrain sneaker and was about the size of a Patriot missile. The first legion of cell-speakers reminded me of that kid in third grade who was the first to get an old school Nintendo. He would never shut up about how he was already on the second quest of Zelda.

Man, I hated that kid.

Now it seems everyone is beating Zelda; the cell phone-omenon has reached a fever pitch. At Northwestern and abroad, it seems anyone worth talking to has one of these fun new toys. And granted, cell phones can be fun. Like Nintendo, they have games. And they offer unprecedented convenience with a nice side of peace of mind. Unless you’re Clark Kent. He’s plum out of luck.

But perhaps we should tack a note on the phones, like the kind they put on flotation devices: “When used properly, a cell phone can save your evening and even your life. If misused, however, you may look like a weenie or have an unfortunate run-in with a parking meter.”

And now, my confession: This summer, I had a job that required the use a cell phone (not mine) to report back to someone more important than myself. Though my conversations were limited to such exchanges as, “Yes, I have acquired the Master’s lunch” or “Affirmative, I have retrieved the Captain’s theater tickets,” I found myself gallivanting down the street with a swelling ego. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit I gallivanted once or twice. Everyone makes mistakes.

Then, with the help of a New York parking meter, I stopped and thought about the gadget at my ear. And I watched the hordes swarming on the streets, buzzing away into their clenched fists. The Cell People seemed so focused on who they could be talking to and where they could be going. It was a dizzying feeling, like sitting with someone who never stops channel-surfing because they’re afraid of what they might be missing on the surgery or fundamentalist Christian channels.

I always love a good talk with someone who’d clearly rather be talking to someone who, um, isn’t me. If I want to be around someone who likes talking to people who aren’t there, I’ll go rent “Harvey.”

Zora Neale Hurston once wondered, “How can anyone deprive themselves of the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” Cell phones are meant to bring us closer together. But more often than not, they seem to push us into self-absorbed bubbles, farther away from the beauty of spontaneity and the grace of direct human contact.

At NU and at other hotbeds of the hyper-ambitious, we tend to lock our eyes on the farthest horizon and ignore the immediate parts of our journeys. But someday we might turn around and see we’re lonely. We clicked off loved ones for more pressing calls. Or our friends ran screaming from our radically individual (nauseating) ring.

In the words of Bob Dylan (who may or may not have a cell phone): “Watch your parking meters.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
With everyone connected, the world cells out