Can we put down our cell phones just for a minute?

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

OK, so no one’s answering. Could you just let it ring a little longer, longer?

— Electric Light Orchestra

Yes, there are more amazing creations than the modern cell phone — penicillin, airplanes and rock and roll come to mind — but there really aren’t that many.

No way Alexander Graham Bell could ever have imagined in his wildest dreams that one day people would watch movies, take photographs, listen to music, send rapid-fire text messages, play innovative games and, oh yes, converse on his invention.

Anyone who even hints that these little marvels of technology aren’t among the most amazing achievements of humankind is delusional, jealous or hasn’t seen a modern cell phone in use.

But, damn, folks, can’t we put these things down and walk away from them even for a few minutes?

I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur for not wholly embracing cell phone technology. It probably is a symptom of generational envy that I don’t stay plugged in myself 24/7, but I kinda agree with the great Groucho Marx — who on his “You Bet Your Life” TV show famously told a female contestant with several children, “Madam, I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while” — that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

I’m castigated often for my general disdain of cellphone technology, especially when I find myself temporarily addicted to some trifle like “Angry Birds” or “Song Pop” and my 10-year-old has to guilt me into giving her her phone back. Such distractions, plus the capacity to listen to favorite music on a whim or stay in constant contact with loved ones traveling anywhere in the world, are reasons enough to jump on the already overflowing cell phone bandwagon.

But here are some of my top excuses for resisting:

  • “Family gatherings” highlighted by offspring and parents never even looking up from their individual devices long enough to carry on even a minimal amount of conversation.
  • The diminished-to-disappearing quest for knowledge — trivial or otherwise — by a generation that believes the answer to all questions can easily be “Googled.” (You want a challenge? Try convincing some tech-savvy know-it-all that just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it true.)
  • The arguments of special-interest groups that no longer come from a sense of conviction but rather from spoonfed propoganda generated by slicksters who stand to benefit more from blind loyalty, no conviction necessary.
  • Cell phone users who text each other while in the same building ... too much trouble to put the damned phone down long enough to walk 15 steps.
  • Users who can’t engage in any activity that doesn’t require a cell phone without whipping out their device every 37 seconds or so to make sure they didn’t miss some vital new message.
  • The fact that the “latest technology” becomes old news within, like, 45 minutes after it hits the market, leaving parents to either shell out money constantly to acquire upgrades or render their offspring social pariah.
  • The ever-more-insipid TV cell phone commercials — “Horsey don’t speak.” ... “What’s better, faster or slower?” ... “Can you hear me now?” anyone? — that make me want to smash their products into tiny little pieces, not buy them.

Not to be overly dramatic, but what’s at stake in this age of technological wonder are the dying arts of conversation and social interaction. Why drive or even — heaven forbid — walk to a friend’s house to catch up with him when a simple “SUP?” text will do?

After much consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that this impersonal cell phone communication is actually the ultimate revenge of the nerds. Now those poor souls whose social awkwardness once kept them on the outer fringes of popularity can overcome their awkwardness and move up the social ladder with superior technical skills.

As the Bible sorta/kinda predicted: The Geeks have indeed inherited the Earth.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.