Call Me, Maybe?

I put a lot of thought into what toy, show, or song that meant a lot to me in my childhood. I thought about discussing my Furby, digital pet key chain, my barbie computer game, or my quad but I realized that I didn’t have a whole lot to say about any of these. I think the item that had the biggest effect on me as a middle school adolescent was a cell phone. This was a symbol for a huge time of growth and change in my life, as materialistic as that may sound.. It’s true!

To make a long story short, my mom married my step dad when I was three, and got divorced when I was in 7th grade. Essentially, I grew up with him as though he was my father. When they got divorced, things got sort of complicated. My step dad decided to buy me a cell phone, just to spite my mom because she didn’t think I should have one until I started driving. That’s sort of the background. 

So, what is cell phone meant for? At that time, (It’s crazy to think how much has changed in just a few years), cell phones were meant for phone calls. At least that’s how it was in my family. Even for most high school kids at that time, cell phones were meant just to make phone calls or in case of an emergency. This seems simple enough. 

In my case, the cell phone symbolized a much deeper message. Firstly, it was a symbol of spite between my mom and step dad’s marriage. All it really did was cause drama when I didn’t even need it in the first place, but was glad to have it because it made me seem “cool” and more “mature”. So when I first got it, the first thing I did was stay up until midnight on school nights playing Bejeweled and Snake. I lived with my mom so I wasn’t allowed to bring it to school or really to use it at all. As a middle schooler, I was just proud to say I had a cell phone and my friends thought that was pretty cool. Not many kids had cell phones and if they did, they didn’t pay for texting so that wasn’t even an option at that time. To sum it up, the cell phone was a symbol of status and maturity in my head and I didn’t really understand the big deal about it, or why my parents fought about it until I got into highschool (once most kids had cell phones). 

On the other hand, once other kids started getting cell phones in high school, there was many other reasons for having cell phones. In many ways it was a sign of rebellion and again, status. I remember my friends started texting during class and would always get in trouble. They would use it as a way to talk, and it was much cooler than having to call your friends from your land line. This correlates with Griffin’s idea that at some point, kids have to find their own freedom as well as deviate from society and their parental controls. 

I think that cell phones create an interesting dynamic in the social realm. This could be analyzed in a few ways. The first social interaction it brings up is between children and parents, which goes well with the Griffin article. One idea that stands out is the idea that certain objects or ideas, “may and often [do] reinforce parental values, but it also contains a countersocial potential” (117). In relation to a cell phone, this means that a phone could reinforce parental values and could also give parents a type of control, similar to Griffin’s idea of fences. Parents could use cell phones to control their kids, know where they are and what they are doing. In my case, my cell phone was a sort of control because if I did something I wasn’t supposed to, it would get taken away which really motivated me to obey my mom. On the other hand, cell phones provide the perfect means for a child to rebel and disobey their parents. They can call and text their friends to meet up, can call and lie to their parents, etc. One thing that I hear from parents today is that if a child ever has a curfew and they are late, and don’t answer their cell phone, they automatically worry and assume something is wrong. This in a roundabout way is a way for a child to have control. If they don’t answer their phone, they are in power and the parent is completely worried. As Griffin put it, cell phones can encourage kids to “lose their innocence” (108). Parents like my mom want to “close off their children’s freedom” in order to protect them (107).

Another important interaction is through gender. In middle school, and as I’ve grown older, texting has definitely become a way to flirt. In college, there is a saying that if someone texts you at night they want one type of relationship, but if they text you during they day it’s probably something more than sexual. And to play on this gendered stereotype, males most likely text girls with one thing in mind, and girls text guys with a completely different idea in mind. Young males tend to focus on sex, while young girls tend to focus on love. Especially according to the movies and clips we have seen in class so far. We see this in Griffins article, “girls were supposed to want to be married [to Davy] or be his mother” (115). 

Overall, one object can really have a much deeper meaning that its’ intended purpose depending on the individual, their background, and their experiences. 

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2 thoughts on “Call Me, Maybe?

  1. Taylor, I like the point you make about how the phone came to symbolize something far more than communication in middle school, but I’m curious: do you think you used it in a way that was different than its societal intent? Sure, you played games and, well, didn’t really use it — so how does that counter its proposed cultural function? I’d just like to see you unpack that a bit more….

  2. I also like how you wrote about the cell phone being a “status symbol” that in the eyes of teenagers, made you more “cool” and “mature”. I remember getting a cell phone when I was thirteen, but I wasn’t allowed to text or go online. Immaturely, I didn’t like the phone because it wasn’t a “flip-phone”. It was a big blue brick that also had the game Snake on it, but that was about it. Strange how even the appearance of a cell phone can bother someone. I think now, people aren’t as concerned about whether you have a phone or not (because society has reached a point where everyone assumes everyone has a cell phone….) but what kind of phone it is, and to go along with type, what kind of case is on it. Which brings me to my next point, I think there are gender differences, based on historic media, that decide these factors. For example, how many men do you see walking around with floral, sparkly, phone cases? Or how many women do you see with cases that have a picture of sports cars? (I’m really generalizing here….) I dunno, I guess my question would be, did you notice in jr high and high school the types of phones kids had and whether they made them more or less “popular” and second, the appearance of the phone-cases, keypads, color etc…?

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