On my recent airline excursions, I have made a very important observation. People all over the world, no matter what country they’re flying into or what language they speak, are attached to their cell phones. Addicted. People can’t survive any longer than they absolutely have to without being in constant contact with the world.
When the flight attendant instructs passengers on airplanes to disable their mobile devices, a collective groan and overall displeasure can be felt throughout the cabin. No one likes being disconnected from loved ones, friends and colleagues. I understand this phenomenon- does one cell phone really disrupt the enormous Boeing 747 engine? Will I really interfere with inter-space satellites by texting? The answer is no, one cell phone will not make a difference, as I have witnessed when my mom completely forgot to turn her phone off on a long flight to St. Thomas and didn’t realize until we landed, or another time, when I was mid-complaint, a kind engineer and former Southwest Airlines employee next to me informed me that it’s more for noise disruption and passenger volume control than for safety and aviation matters.
This actually makes perfect sense. Yes, I want to have my phone on to receive tests and calls and emails, but think about it: if everyone on board was able to access their emails and make endless calls, a plane would become nothing more than a noise tunnel for cell conversations and the constant beeping of BBMs. Everyone wants to continue their voyeurism and visual poaching of each other. Everyone wants to Twitter and BBM and email and Facebook and Ping and text and chat with their iPhones and Blackberries.
I have noticed that the second the plane touches down, people reach for their phone like a life preserver. Frought with separation anxiety or fear that they may have missed the greatest event on earth, everyone scrambles to turn their phone on as soon as they physically can without being detected by the nosy stewardesses. Yes, obviously I’m guilty of this also, and admit to suffering separation anxiety when I feel cut off from my world when I’m not instantly accessible and I can’t immediately reach everyone I want to talk to. But I would much rather sacrifice a few hours of “incommunicado” than endure a flight full of everyone talking to everyone else they know, and be subjected to my fellow traveller’s addiction to instant gratification and instant knowledge of every detail of everyone’s lives.
Consider an airplane flight a small break from the constant barrage of media images and instant communication with every acquaintance. Everyone will still want to talk when you land, and when you don’t respond instantly to every request and email and chat, it adds an air of mystery and prevents you from being too available to everyone who needs to reach you. I secretly enjoy the rush of turning on my phone after a few hours, to see how many texts and emails I have, and to see them all flood in at once, reassuring me that I didn’t miss anything major: my world is right there waiting for me.