From Useful Asset to Nonomissible Necessity:
Significance of Cell Phones Amidst the Mobile Attachment Phenomenon INTRODUCTION
Our wallets, our keys, our ID cards… these are just a few things we need to bring out with us everyday. Quickly joining the list in the past few decades is the young invention – cell phones. Ever since the cell phone became commercially available in 1983, and as it evolved from being the 790g, 25cm-high, home-phone-like DynaTAC to the multi-task all-in-one smartphone, with increasing portability, convenience and functionality, the cell phone has become a non-ignorable device in our lives. With a cell phone, you can not only make a phone call, text and leave a voice message, but with advancing mobile and Internet connection technology, you can also take a photo, capture videos, send emails, listen to music, play games, read books, search for local information, shop and do many other more tasks. Some smartphones even enable us to pay electronic cash. Cell phone ownership among six-to eleven-year-olds grew 68% between 2005 and 2010 (Kelly); 234 million Americans age 13 and older used mobile devices for the three-month average period ending in April 2012 (“comScore Reports”). The fact that worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew from 12.4 million to over 6 billion from 1990 to 2011, penetrating about 87% of the global population (“Mobile Phone”), shows that this is not just a phenomenon specified at a certain age group, a certain nation or a certain class, but is universal. In fact, researchers Rideout, Foehr and Roberts wrote, “Cell phones are the last thing they touch before falling asleep and the first thing they reach for upon waking.” (qtd. in Baran and Davis 314) Cell phones are embedded into our daily life. With the increasing use of cell phones in our lives comes the increasing dependence, attachment or some may even say, addiction with the device. We might be spending time with our loved ones under the magnificently beautiful night sky, yet our hands are tapping in text. We might be enjoying a meal in a restaurant with relaxing music playing in the background but our fingers and our eyes are still glued to our phones. As suggested by the title, this paper is interested in why and what contributes to people’s attachment to their mobile phones. This paper will examine the reasons behind people’s attachment with their mobile devices with reference to various mass communication theories to illustrate the significance of a cell phone to its user on an individual level, on a community level and on a social world level. These analyses should be able to help us understand the cause of the phenomenon. To avoid confusion, it is stressed that the cell phones mentioned in this paper will be referring to smartphones, due to its comprehensive functionality. Before the analysis, however, the next section gives a brief description of how the situation of mobile affinity is currently like. MOBILE ATTACHMENT: THE PHENOMENON
People’s attachment with their cell phones is there, right in front of our eyes, every day, everywhere. But how serious and widespread can that be? What does it mean by being attached to your cell phone? Various qualitative and quantitative studies have investigated into the phenomenon of mobile attachment, and though a bit exaggerated, these studies are able to give us a brief and accurate overview into how important are mobile phones to their users and how attached, dependent, or even obsessed some users are to their cell phones. These studies highlight “an unmistakable portrait of a world collectively staring at a tiny display screen for hours and hours of every day”(Gilbert) and reveal that three signs may indicate mobile attachment: a sense of irrational, uncontrollable and urgent necessity to have the cell phone around, a sense of lost and hopelessness without it and a willingness to sacrifice to keep it.
The sense of irrational, uncontrollable and urgent necessity to have a...
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