Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 18, 2014

World gets smaller, and it's closing in

Smartphones enrich lives, but we've lost something, too.


Kokomo Tribune

---- — Conventional wisdom says one reason for the popularity of a cellphone is the freedom it bestows on its owner. Someone with a cellphone is never out of touch or out of reach. But Gerard Eder of Greenwood won’t trade in his landline for a cell because, he says, it gives him freedom — freedom from never being out of reach.

“When I’m away from the phone, I’m away from the phone,” he says. Remember when that was a wonderful excuse for ignoring people we didn’t want to talk to?

Eder is one of several people resisting cellphones interviewed by the Daily Journal of Johnson County. The common theme emerging was one of simple solitude, the desire to be alone and out of touch for a time. Cells may be important in an emergency, but they also provide 24-hour access to telemarketers and other cranks. “If people can’t talk to me on the phone at home, I don’t want to talk to them,” grandmother Lois Holben told the newspaper.

Eder and Holben are part of a shrinking minority. The story notes that in 2012, 5.8 million Indiana residents had cellphones, up 3.5 percent from 2011. At the same time, residents with landlines dropped 7 percent to 2.4 million people. Think about that — more than twice as many Hoosiers have cellphones than those who have landlines. In just a couple of years, we’ve gone from stories about people agonizing over whether to give up landlines to stories about people criticized as fuddy duddies for not giving up the things.

There’s no question we’ve gained immeasurably from the new technology, especially since our cells evolved into smartphones. We can now carry around every book in the world with us, watch movies and listen to music. We can map how to get anywhere and learn about the destination before we get there. We can phone or text anyone we care to, even see each other on live video while we interact. We can ask the Internet anything, play almost any kind of game.

They’ve now stopped saying “the world is getting smaller.” It has already gotten so small we can carry it in our pockets. But we’ve lost something, too, which Eder and Holben have figured out.

Peace and quiet have always been precious. We need solitude to take stock of our lives and the events of the day, to repair frazzled nerves and rethink plans and ambitions. But that solitude is becoming harder to come by. We have some kind of electronic window on the world in every room of the house, and we can’t even escape on foot or in the car. The world is always with us, and it’s closing in.

— The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne