I have a cell phone for the first time in years. I like being able to talk to my family for ‘free’ (that is, for the cost of the monthly service) since we are on the same monopoly. When I travel, I like being able to update people who are trying to pick me up at the airport and who would otherwise be inconvenienced. I like how it reduces the psychological barrier to calling my friends, especially those who are spread around the country. If I’m thinking about Danielle, I can call and tell her I miss her while I’m walking between classes. Or if I have a Pro Tools meltdown in a recording session, I can call John to bail me out. It’s great! I think it strengthens my relationships and community.

On the other hand, it’s embarrassing to have my phone ring during a ‘live’ conversation. Sometimes I forget to turn the ringer off and even the vibrate function is audible. I wish it wasn’t. I want to be fully present with anyone I’m talking to. I know I can just keep it turned all the way off, but I do want to be available for my friends and family calling much of the time, and it’s been too much to keep track of so far. If I’m expecting an important call, I try to remember to tell anyone I’m in a conversation with that I may need to answer a call and that I’m sorry in advance. I don’t expect anyone else to behave like that, but I do sometimes wish that people didn’t just automatically answer their phones—that there was some commonly held etiquette to consider.

My friend Anna Fritz pays a lot of attention to social and environmental issues and has decided against having a cell phone because they use this substance called coltan, which is mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the economics of which is perpetuating violent conflict there and displacing people. The mining process is also infringing on gorilla habitat. I haven’t looked into it much, but Wikipedia supports her claims. Ah, the moral ambiguity of leading a modern human life! It may be that if I witnessed what was going on in the DRC first hand, I would be so ashamed to be part of it that I would throw my phone away. It seems like that would just be a waste of this dearly-come-by resource, so I’ll keep it until I find out otherwise. Maybe there’s a business opportunity there—cell phones made with recycled coltan for the ethically sensitive.

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