What Being Glued To the Cell Phone Means

Since this is a post about being glued to the cell phone, I felt it was only fitting to write it on my iPhone (or at least as much as possible). This is not easy for me, because I hardly text with people and I’m not good at it. I hate texting, actually, and I know several people who seem to insist on this method as a primary form of communication–and who get mad when they don’t get responses from people in a timely fashion over text.

I am, though, one of those people who can frequently be seen with a cell phone. I can certainly leave the house without it, especially since cell phones are not for calls–at least not in my world. They are for media. I am the kind of person who will pay $100/month for 200 talk minutes and unlimited data (internet, email, text), tv channels, music channels…really, 200 talk minutes is too much. So, it’s not essential to me to have my cell phone all the time.

Still, if I’m out and I’m fiddling with it constantly, there is one of three reasons–1) I’m bored, 2) I don’t want to look suspicious or lonely, or 3) I don’t want to talk to anyone.

Yes, I am saying that cell phones are not for talking to people, but for not talking to people!

A lot of people truly do prefer to text in order to communicate with others, and I suppose some people really are so important that they need to be one with their phone constantly. But I think the three reasons I just listed are the main reasons people play with their phones all the time or feel the need to have them near. I know some people really need to be in touch with someone, maybe a family member, and need to be easily accessible. But sometimes, you just need to not look as if you’re casing a joint–especially if you’re black, and especially if you’re a black male. I can’t just sit outside of an establishment and look around, you know? Cell phone time! Even though I know ain’t nobody emailed, called or texted me.

Not wanting to talk to people is huge, though, and not understood. One of the benefits of working with a bunch of white guys, as a black female, is that I’m fairly certain I won’t be getting hit on. I’m not saying white guys don’t like black women that way–just that the majority of them won’t hit on a black woman. Since I worked with a lot of blacks at my last job, I had to deal with a lot of black men. I’m not saying all of them were interested in me, but there is a lot wrapped up in what I am saying.

For one thing, I live in the South. My guess would be that black men expect black women to speak to them most places in the US just based on a shared racial identity, but I believe this is especially true in the South and that it’s especially in predominantly black environments. Southerners in general seem to believe in “speaking” and being friendly with random people in a way others don’t. It’s a good thing, but it can also be annoying–especially the expectation of speaking. I don’t have to deal with this with white people to the degree that I do with blacks because of race, but white Southerners definitely “speak.” People just “speak” more in the South than they do elsewhere.

Sometimes, though, a guy really is interested, and sometimes he’ll put you in awkward positions or will approach you in a disrespectful manner.

All of this is how my iPhone comes in handy.

[Switching to the laptop.]

See, at my last job, I couldn’t always avoid the expectation that I’d stop and either smile, return a greeting or engage in conversation. This almost exclusively was an issue with men. When guys clearly expect something from you or want your attention–especially when you notice this is happening with them and not with women–it’s hard not to get defensive and not want to show any signs of interest if you’re not interested. If this is going on with a number of guys, it’s hard not to get sick of it. If you’re someone like me who is naturally a loner, it’s hard not to just want people to leave you alone entirely.

That’s why on breaks, I’d immediately get “busy” with my iPhone. In fact, I’d take it a step farther than a lot of people do and shove earphones into my ears, whether I was listening to music or not. A lot of the time, though, I was. But usually what you see is people checking email, texting or finding someone to talk to on their phone (trust me, 90% of those calls are not essential). I strongly believe that, the majority of the time, these things are either a “don’t bother me” sign or an “I’m not a loser–I have a social life/I have imaginary business to take care of” sign if not just from flatout boredom.

Now, I’ve seen many an article lamenting how people can’t let their cell phones be. I, myself, used to complain about how people could barely see where they were going–uh, walking–for looking at their phones. I once had a guest check into the hotel where I used to work, and she would not stop looking at her phone the whole while. I think I had another one who wouldn’t get off his cell phone while he was trying to check in.

Are these things annoying? To me, not as much as they were about 2-3 years ago. I think now, after dealing with hiding from men and working jobs with tons of down time, I understand better why people are always staring at their phones.

The most interesting complaint I’ve seen, though, about cell phones is along the lines of how it’s ruining socialization and tearing people farther apart from each other. Basically, the complaint is that cell phones and mp3 players and phones with mp3 players are “don’t bother me” signs. But a lot of these articles and blogs have been written as if they don’t understand that this might be the point.

I’m telling you now–I think that’s the point. I know it is for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make new friends, meet someone with whom I could fall in love–although, for me, that would be a woman, not a man–or just have a nice conversation with a stranger. But I think cell phones and mp3 players give us more power in terms of how and when these things happen. In other words, if I don’t feel like talking to anybody (unless it’s someone I choose from my cell phone), I can use my cell phone as a way not to talk to anybody. If I don’t want to deal with the world, I can block out the world. I know I might be missing something that could be valuable along the way, but at least I made that choice. At least I’m not doing something I don’t feel like doing because it’s culturally expected of me.

And because most of us work or go to school, there will be plenty of times throughout the day when we just don’t have the choice–we simply have to deal with people, whether we feel like it or not. So, I’m fine when people take control of the times in their day when they do have the choice.

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