The Cell Phone and the Destruction of Privacy

Ever since the cell phone has started to become more and more involved in people’s day to day life, the privacy barrier which usually comes along with being on the phone has completely vanished. Historically, when having personal conversations, people have been confined to face to face conversations, or at most phone conversations from the seclusion of their own home. Now, with the existence of cell phones, people are taking their personal lives with them wherever they go.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times where I have been in a public place, say a bus, and people on their cell phones have been having extremely personal conversations. This ranges from people yelling their lungs out angrily at the person at the other end of the phone to weeping loudly over extremely personal issues with whoever is on the phone. This is a prime example of how the new technology (cell phones) takes parts of our lives which are usually contained to small, determined places and removes all boundaries associated with them.

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4 Comments

  1. Cell phones are a relatively new technology. This contributes to why the code of conduct using cell phones and similar devices in public is often blurred. They bring private behaviour out into the public eye.Though we all have witnessed it, and probably agree that “you really shouldn’t cry your heart out on a bus”, there is no rule that says not to. And I think that at the time, a user feels that he or she is only communicating to the person at the other end of the line. We hold to the old fact that phones are a two person communication device, and disregard the space we are using them in. This lack of acknowledging public space is inconsiderate, but I believe it is founded on ignorant beliefs of privacy.

    • While I agree somewhat that technology does not have established rules, I do not think we can use it as an excuse for lack of professional conduct in public spaces.

      Many of the essays we have studied so far suggest that humans are moving towards neo-tribal relationships and communities. Even when there was a focus on centralized relations around where you lived, you respected the space of other people and their privacy. And now that we work within fields of communication and can take our private lives anywhere, I believe people are still aware that there should be a greater level of professional conduct issued. Especially since we are no longer intruding on the space of the people directly around us, but also those in the internet community.

      People are aware of the consequences of posting a racy Facebook status, talking about personal experiences on their cellphone, or sending someone a private picture, yet they still do it anyway. I feel the mobility of technology only allows people to be rebellious in forms where they are relatively anonymous.

  2. I feel that the issue of privacy brought up in this post is quite an alarming and true observation. What is overlooked is why people have become less self conscious and more willing to say private things in public areas. The more people have become accustomed to using the internet and technology of a social means of communication, the more people have shared. Whereas in the earlier years of social networking the issue of privacy was a vital concern, with years people have grown used to sharing more and more. Without being bombarded with many negative repercussions, people have begun to share more and more, not concerning themselves much over privacy. This out of sight, out of mind mentality is not so much of trust in the internets security, if you ask almost anyone I don’t think many would say they trust completely that there information is safe. But it is an issue of technology becoming so important and such a large part of our lives that people do not want to give it up, and so the issue of privacy is put aside for being able to keep up with the world and being a part of something. Like an old relationship, people tend to grow so comfortable that they do not question things like they may have in the beginning. This transfers over to cell phone use and privacy in public places. Though you are using verbal communication, it is easy to feel you are so caught up in the “magic circle” effect of communication that you forget everyone else around, or think of them just like digital entities, thinking nobody you actually KNOW will be around, so who cares? Until negative repercussions come back at us as an individual in a way that we cannot ignore, I think people will keep on sharing more and more, and often, more than we ever needed to know.

  3. You’re all touching on a lot of the same points I brought up in an earlier comment (earlier for me–your comments were actually made much before this one. Good for you on getting to it first) : privacy and public spaces, changing social norms. But I want to briefly comment on an issue dare2dream14 brought up: our willingness to compromise our privacy in the name of connectivity. In the wake of several American bills regarding wire-tapping and the like, privacy is often contrasted with security. But I think connectivity is a more interesting comparison. In a way, it’s a very old problem–our personal sovereignty comes under fire the moment another person is involved. And it’s interesting how technology reshapes this problem. Original rhetoric regarding the internet emphasized its access to personal freedom: anonymous identity, the transcendence of rigid borders, and so forth. But now, the focus is more on interactivity–social networks, work networks, photo sharing, and so forth. Does this shift come as a natural result of our new technology? Or is it more a cultural issue?


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