[SPEAK OUT]Thoughts on our mobile lives

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[SPEAK OUT]Thoughts on our mobile lives

In a society where almost every citizen carries a mobile phone, there is no such thing as having to wait for someone, not knowing whether he will arrive soon or is perhaps tied up in traffic. Unbounded by time and place, we can always use our mobile phone to call someone if he does not show as planned. But the state of being constantly tethered to one another has eliminated much of the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised by a friend who calls to say they are nearby and would like to drop in to say hello. And after a meeting, we do not need to set up a date for the next rendezvous because we can always contact each other on the spur of the moment.

Life is a series of meetings, and meetings allow communication. Mobile phones extend meetings by maintaining a state where we can contact someone anywhere and anytime. In a sense, true departures are disappearing.

With the advent of mobile communication devices, we lost a lot of the pleasure of meeting someone after a long drought of contact. In the past, our busy lives left few moments to engage friends. Now a quick call on-the-run can reassure a frazzled relationship.

The notion of meeting and departing, which is an important rhythm in our lives, is disappearing. Mobile phones have changed various facets of our existence.

According to a recent survey on freshmen in Korean universities, mobile phones play a large role in shaping their relationships. In the development phase of their relationships, whether it was between friends or lovers, the mobile phone was an important adjunct.

Nowadays, young people use mobile phones to send text messages and search for information as well as to communicate in general.

If they wish to exchange romantic feelings, they prefer to call. But when they ask for forgiveness or need to criticize, they prefer text messages.

An interesting factor is that people who have mobile phones that offer this feature prefer to put their phone on vibrating mode rather than using a ring tone for incoming calls.

In fact, the ring tone of a mobile phone is an unnecessary legacy, inherited from the tradition of fixed line phones. For a medium of communication as private as a mobile phone, a person does not need the loud sound of a bell. There are ways other than a bell or screaming ring tone to alert someone of an incoming call. The vibrating mode is another way to give notice. Some may argue that the vibration does not gain your attention readily if the phone has been placed in a purse or briefcase.

Researchers in the mobile phone industry should invent a system, such as a bracelet or a ring, that can alert the wearer to an incoming call. A wireless phone that emits a signal to a ring, which flashes an alert, informing the wearer that someone is calling, would be enormously popular among users of mobile phones.

by Kim Joo-hwan

The writer is a professor of journalism at Yonsei University.
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