What did we do before cell phones?

The introduction of Boyd’s book interested me because she wrote about our usage of cell phones, which is a theme I’ve thought a lot about since beginning this class. The computer is a huge medium for us, but I think the relevance of cell phones has caused people to be more wired than ever. The cell phone offers a type of affordance that makes it easily usable on the go wherever you are. Unlike a computer, a cell phone is small and can fit in your pocket or purse – so it’s never too far. Boyd says that “over 80 percent of high school students had cell phones in 2010” and I believe it. Our generation started young, and it’s brought me to the question: what did we do before cell phones?

There are two specific instances I’ve identified throughout the last two weeks of this course, and I would love for other answers. How did we wake up in the morning before our cell phone alarm? Did our parents wake us up? How many people actually owned an alarm clock? And how many have one today? I genuinely cannot remember a time when I didn’t wake up to the convenience of my cell phone alarm, which I can swiftly and quickly shut off with one grasp. Another thing I’ve been thinking about is directions. How did we know how to get anywhere before cell phones offered maps and step by step directions? I vaguely remember my parents printing pages off of Google maps, but what about when you were going somewhere nearby you were just unsure of? I drove up to Penn State this weekend, where I’ve never been, and my phone took me through the entire three and a half hour journey. I literally have no idea what I would have done without it.

It’s interesting to see how the usage of cell phones has evolved since we were younger. My first 2-3 phones were flip phones, the touch screen not even invented yet (or so I remember). Check out this video where teenagers in 2017 use flip phones for the first time if you want to feel old.

Boyd talks about how our youth creates spaces through social media where they can go and interact without physically transporting anywhere. I found this point interesting because as I thought about it, I realized something startling: I could know (or think I know) so much about a person’s life without ever meeting them. I could know what they look like, what their habits are, their humor, who their family and friends are, where they go to school and what they do, the list goes on. The internet allows teens to know people they don’t actually know. I can see how this poses as danger, but I’m also interested in learning about the danger of unrealistic self expectations and false images it has on teenagers.


Author: Ellie

I'm an aspiring novelist just trying to write.

2 thoughts on “What did we do before cell phones?”

  1. Ellie, the cell phone video is a riot. Thanks for posting it. (Although I’m not completely sure it’s primarily an “audio” text.) You’ve written an eloquent and smart complaint here. To me, it feels more “in the mode” of Carr than of boyd. Do you agree? How would you define your position right now now in relation to these two writers? ~Joe


  2. Sometimes when talking to people I’ll say “oh I know her!” But then I say “I don’t actually know her, I just see her on Instagram” or something like that. And I can know so many things about one person that I have never met. It’s crazy to think that! And I’m sure people say the same thing about me, which makes it kinda creepy.


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