Kgomotso Matsunyane

Cellphone heaven and hell

2008-04-17 09:09

Kgomotso Matsunyane

Our kids are mortified to learn there was ever a world where cellphones did not exist. For better or worse, I'm old enough to remember, as I'm sure many of you reading this column.

I even remember the days where the phones were a "Nommer Asseblief" type of switchboard affair and the act of making a call was a laborious winding of a lever on the instrument itself. I never got to use these, but I saw the adults do it often enough.

Then came time in the 80's when a sure sign of being a bona fide township cheese-girl was having your own family phone in the house. We weren't quite in that demographic so I missed that experience. Oh well.

Fast-forward to the 90's and voila, the arrival of the cellphone. In the early days they came with their own suitcase, and the people who had one were beyond insufferable in their superior attitude. Then things got a bit easier and the phones became the size of a brick. Real progress.

Nowadays cellphones are about the size of my pinkie and getting smaller every day. I fear future options will include the implanting of devices into out heads so small as to be virtually undetectable.

Miniature sizing

Of course the problem with the miniature sizing is trying to find the ittie bittie thing when you really need to. I always seem to be calling my own number just to locate my phone, and that's only if I'm lucky enough to be within close proximity of another phone.

I sometimes pine for the days when a cellphone was just that, a device to make and receive calls. It has become almost impossible to buy a phone that doesn't have a megapixel camera, access to e-mail and the internet, and all manner of unnecessary functions and capabilities.

The truth is most of us aren't even aware of half of what our phones are actually capable of, unless you have kids of course. Kids and cellphones are a match made in hell. Before the little monsters even say "Hallo Auntie", their peanut butter smothered fingers are already punching away at your phone as you give their parents a "please make them to stop" look.

What is most scary is that the true impact on long-term use of cellphones on our brains and general physiology is yet to be calculated. We just simply don't know. If the impacts are averse I'm in the deep end of the ocean. I'm on the top floor of a small apartment block in Cape Town, which is typically a prime spot to be, but there is now also a huge cellphone transformer thingimagik that takes up about a third of the roof. Sure, it helps keep the levies down, but at what price on my long-term health?

It has become impossible to live without cellphones. Their convenience is just beyond compare. But they can also be a royal pain in the behind.

Misuse of cellphones

To be fair, it is the misuse of cellphones by people that can really do a serious tap dance on one's last nerve. For example, there are morons who still keep their cellphones on in the movies! As if that's not bad enough (mistakes can happen), the twits actually answer the phones and think that speaking in hushed tones (hands over mouths) makes everything kosher! Are you kidding me? It is only at these moments where I actually believe that owning a gun might be justifiable. Another irritation is the genius that sends texts during movies, their blue screen annoyingly, unavoidably, drawing your attention.

And then there's the issue of intimate cellphone etiquette, the rules for which are yet (belatedly) to be formalised. I love that my nieces can "buzz" me when they want or need me to call them, but there is nothing which is an instant romance killer as getting a "please call me" from a prospective love interest. No, sweetie, no! Drinking and dialling is also a no-no, especially after midnight.

And what about phone etiquette between couples - are you in an open or closed cellphone relationship? If closed, what are you hiding? I admit, I've "peeked" at a partner's cellphone messages, and alas, didn't find anything juicy. But if you have to look for evidence to begin with, there's something seriously wrong with this picture.

And for crying out loud, ever so often, just allow yourself to switch the damn thing off.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane owns two cellphones and is a partner at T.O.M. Pictures, an award winning TV and Film Company in Jo'burg.

    Send your comments to Kgomotso.

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