A friend of mine, Jake, recently brought up a very interesting point about our parents and their use of cell phones, specifically in the context of contacting us (their children). He hypothesized that perhaps the reason that our parents seem to call us more than we would like, is that they have no idea what it was to be a child and have their parents be able to contact them at any time (e.g. “I told you not to call me now, Dad! I’m at the diner sharing a root beer float with my sweetheart, Elaine! She’s so swell.”).
To give some context, I’m currently 27. My first cell phone was a Nokia candybar (most likely at 5110) which I got when I was in high school (mid 1990’s). Motorola invented the cell phone in 1973, but they didn’t become economically viable, reasonably sized, or widespread until some time after that, so the current crop of late twenty / early thirty-somethings are the first generation to actually have grown up using mobile phones.
(And for the record, I think that the coolest phone I ever owned was my Motorola Timeport, circa 2001. This was like the StarTac’s crazy futuristic cousin. Something about the three-colored LCD screen was really nifty — far niftier, in fact, than a full color screen, which, if you’re not using a multimedia phone, seems like overkill (as much as I love seeing animated calculator icons!). However, much to my disappointment, this device had no features to support porting through time.)
So now, our parents, who didn’t grow up using mobile phones, have them, and aren’t afraid to use them, no matter how inopportune or inconvenient for the poor recipients of their paranoid-fueled, yet well-meaning, parental wrath. The question is, when we grow up, will our own parental instincts prevail, or will we be able to successfully subdue them, thinking back to our own childhoods, and honoring our children’s sense of privacy (e.g. “I told you not to call me on the ship phone, Dad!. Yea, I’m with Timmy. No, not in orbit yet. Yea – I know … no robot prostitutes. We’re just going to go pick some space beer and hang out at our Moon cabin – did you leave the keys?”).
There are two ways that this whole thing could go down. The first, as I’ve described, is that, as parents, we remember how often we were forced to press “Ignore” or shut our cell phones off because we didn’t care to be bothered with what was surely a gratuitous call from our parents. Alternatively, our comfort (and indeed reliance) on this technology could make things even worse for our kids. Because not only will their parents have cell phones, but for a better part of their adult lives, their grandparents had cell phones, too! That’s two generations worth of random questions which just came to mind, all-too-frequent “check-ins”, unsolicited calls “to say hi,” and of course a barrage of calls without even any purported purpose (”Jeez, Grandma, what is it now?!? Yes, I know. The birds on your windowsill do have such lovely little feathers. Have they gotten lovelier since yesterday? OK, then. Bye.”)
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