Cell phones, Internet: redefining social life

Cindy Wenqi Lu, 21, cannot leave home without her cellular phone or stay off the internet.Socializing yesterday was about going out and meeting people, but today’s youth are doing so with the touch of a button and the click of a mouse.

Do you want to call it quits with your significant other, but contemplating how to do it? Are you biting your nails at the thought of it becoming an ugly confrontation? Worry no more, TELUS Mobility cellular phones are here.

A series of advertisements displayed inside a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus promised that ending a relationship could be made easy with the help of a TELUS cellular phone. One could notify his or her partner by sending a text message, an email, simply calling or via messenger. With those options a nasty encounter could be easily avoided.

Fits of laughter were the passengers’ reactions to the advertisements. Truth me told, the displays were funny as they were probably meant to be, but there is a serious issue to be considered.

Is technology robbing today’s youths of a social life? Gone are the days of strolling in the park, picnics and sleepovers. Cellular phones, pagers, beepers and online communities, such as Facebook and MySpace, are things that a growing number of teenagers and young adults cannot seem to stay away from.

“What I can tell you is that our recent survey with Angus Reid [Global Monitor] which was about Canadians and their changing communication habits, showed us that a high percentage of Canadians,18-49 years old, are using email to organize their social life,” says AJ Gratton of the TELUS Media Relations department in Ontario.

Gregory Harton can only shake his head at such an idea. The 70-year-old grew up in an age when much of today’s technology did not exist. He socialized the old fashion way.

“In those days, people actually had conversations face to face,” Harton says. “Nowadays, with all this technology stuff, people don’t even bother to take the time to meet people in person anymore.”

Delroy Green spends a lot of time on the internet. When the 20-year-old is on the road, he uses his cellular phone to access the web. Forgetting this device at home would be his worst nightmare come true.

“I just can’t do without my phone,” Green reveals. “It keeps me in touch with people quickly and easily.”

Ease and quickness may be reasons so many young people flock to these electronic devices, but are they proving to be detrimental to their lives?

“People have completely tuned out what is going on around them,” says Derval Clarke, a teaching assistant at the University of Toronto at Scarborough. “My students don’t even bother listening to me in class. They are too busy keeping up with the latest buzz on Facebook or talking on their phones about their plans after class.”

While cellular phones and online communities have become the preferred means of communication, some people say they simply are today’s fads and like fashion, will go out of style.

“I am not worried about my daughter having her cell phone as her best friend,” Linda Grant laughs. “That is what is considered cool right now. When it is no longer impressive to flick out your cell phone every second or jump on Facebook every minute, then she will stop.”

Until then, nothing is stopping the many teenagers and young adults who are increasingly turning toward their gadgets for a social life.