Benjamin Krimmel: Get over the cell phone obsession

Twenty years ago, “Seinfeld” character George Costanza angrily marveled at the long wait he suffered to make a call at a Chinese restaurant.

“I just can’t believe the way people are. What is with humanity? What kind of world do we live in?” He shouted during his tirade.

Today, that frustration wouldn’t even cross his mind. If the episode had taken place in 2011, Costanza would have just taken out his cell phone and dialed.

That sounds easy enough, but cell phone use, especially on campus, has leapt from mere ownership to abuse.

Eighteen to 24 year olds will send and receive an average of 109.5 texts per day, with 23 percent of young people receiving more than 100, according to a Pew Research Center report released Sept. 20.

That study seems to underestimate the texting nature of our GW students. Our campus of cell phone obsessed zombies wandering around creates a student body that lacks a real community connection.

Every day you see students walking around, their thumbs ferociously attacking their keypads, hypnotized by 4G. Others simply clutch their phones like Linus from “Peanuts” holds his blanket, fearing for a world with no bars.

So many people complain about the lack of student cohesion on campus. The drone of people lamenting GW’s woefully absent sense of community has become a basic facet of attending this school.

And yet, no one thinks to step back and pull their faces away from the glow of their iPhones, BlackBerries and Android phones and actually interact.

One of my professors insists that, before class can begin, every student must talk to his or her neighbor. It doesn’t have to be about anything, he only wants to have student interaction before he begins his lecture.

When I walk around campus, I feel like I am an obstacle to avoid as students briefly glance from their phone screen. At GW, cell phones – especially smart phones – have become a fifth limb. No student can survive without cell phone in hand.

Can we honestly be expected to have spirit, have true community even, if the only connection we’re concerned with is the one that keeps our cell phones in service in the SMPA basement? I’m not saying we should banish all cell phones. I won’t say I’m not guilty of using or overusing them myself – I was recently in a texting-induced trance while in line at Potbelly when a stranger tapped me on the shoulder to answer the man behind the counter – but this addiction is doing nothing good for our attempts at real human interaction. And it’s annoying.

I have had many “conversations” with friends, interrupted by them staring at their screens. They will say that while they are making plans for later or sending an important text they are listening to me. They lie.

The other night, I saw four friends eating at Ivory Tower who didn’t talk, but rather made passing comments to each other about what was happening on their phone.

I am not suggesting we all wear nametags around campus or shake the hands of everyone we pass, but actual communication with the people we pass on campus builds a better GW community.

I think even today Costanza would have asked himself what is wrong with humanity. He would go through the roof, because cell phones have become master of GW’s domain.

Benjamin Krimmel is a sophomore majoring in international affairs.

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