“Low-Tech,” Rachel Cameron (2012) — Inquiry 1

Writer’s Reflection

This paper is the product of a long and somewhat strenuous process. I did not have difficulty choosing a broad topic (technology), but it was a challenge to narrow my thoughts into a logical and organized essay and to focus on a specific item (cell phones). I have been very hesitant to embrace cell phone technology, mainly because I’ve been frustrated with the overuse or “abuse” of this technology.

In writing this essay, I practiced Wayne Booth’s Listening Rhetoric-a, to listen to my opponent not to win an argument but to “achieve a new agreement about what is real” (47). After “listening” to society in order to identify the advantages of using mobile phones, I found that they really do provide amazing convenience. In the end, I came to the conclusion that cell phones aren’t completely bad. In fact, they’re quite useful, but it is possible to be too dependent on them. Basically, I cannot control the world (nor would I want to), so my purpose in this essay is to decide how I, after listening to the opposing arguments, will respond to the pressure that I feel regarding my use of cell phones.

I hope that I’ve exercised true listening rhetoric and have communicated my thought process effectively.


When I entered the college scene, I became strongly aware of society’s expectation of me with regard to my use of technology. I was so “old-fashioned.” When I was seventeen, my classmates commonly blurted out in surprise, “You don’t have a cell phone?” So, I bought a cell phone. Then the exclamation became, “You don’t have Facebook!” So, I started a Facebook account. The inquiry soon became, “You don’t text?” This time, I astonished even my professors and my boss, but I have yet to succumb to “texting pressure.” Meanwhile, I have watched the pace of American society gain momentum. Communication and information are instantaneously accessible, thanks to all the newest innovations in phone devices. While this access is extremely useful and powerful, I notice that the more extensively phones are used, the more society depends on them. I continually wonder, Will the advancement ever end? Whereas I used to greet people as I walked down the street, now their eyes and thumbs are “glued” to their phones. I used to be able to converse with a friend, uninterrupted, but now I must compete with whomever she’s texting. Cell phones (including smartphones, iPhones, 3G phones, etc.), insofar as they have been overused, have become distasteful to me, and the implied “argument” that pressures me to keep up with the modern tech trends is becoming heavier and harder for me to bear since it would be easier to return to my carefree childhood and enjoy life as it “used to be.”

As a young girl, privacy was not hard to come by. I was educated at home, and it was never my priority to fit in with the crowd. My parents encouraged me to be financially prudent and to resist peer pressure, particularly in negative contexts. I was accustomed to making plans with people ahead of time and reliably following through with them and having meaningful conversations with one person at a time, rather than announcing what was on my mind to the world of Facebook or conversing with or texting separate people simultaneously. I enjoyed my organized life, my privacy, my pace. I managed my time, my work and play, with very little pressure from society … until I reached college. It’s true that the world has changed, but in fact, it always has been changing—I just never noticed.

The apparent problem is that I don’t want to acquiesce to “overusing” mobile phones, and in American culture, this preference sets me apart as different from the norm. If I truly listen to the culture’s argument (i.e. to keep up with the technology trends), I will be challenged to surrender three things: money, because I’ll have to invest in modern phone devices and applications; preference, because I’ll have to submit to being always reachable; and pride, because I will have to yield my unique, “old-fashioned” identity. Listening to the culture’s voice, I believe, will entail sacrifice. Yet, unlike the color of my skin, this identity issue is one that I have the power to change, and thus, must consider.

There are reasons behind the popularity and extensive use of cell phones. Ever since they have become popular, though, I’ve tried to avoid listening to the reasons for using them. As I grow older and begin to interact with more people, from a variety of backgrounds, I’m finding that it’s important for me to genuinely consider other perspectives. Instead of abandoning my personal preferences out of hopeless surrender, maybe listening to the opposing side of the “argument” can offer real hope for me. Perhaps if I truly consider arguments that oppose my personal opinion, I may gain some understanding of why people use cell phones so extensively and why following the crowd may not be an unthinkable option for me, after all.

Cell phones are no longer restricted to solely voice communication. With their texting and Internet applications, they give individuals access to immediate communication with the rest of the world. My “opponents,” the majority of society, would argue that cell phones allow for social connectedness, and that optimal connectedness occurs when all people in society participate. (Hence the reason I feel pressure to conform.) Through talking, texting, emailing, and “Facebooking,” phones provide ease of communication. When plans change, there’s always an alert mechanism to notify those who depend on us. In situations where talking isn’t convenient (e.g. when my boss is in a meeting or when my friend is in class), texting bridges the gap. It’s no longer necessary to be at home to check email, because phones offer access to the Internet and often have miniature “keyboards” or touch screens for ease of typing. Modern phones, with all of their applications and capabilities, allow for tremendous social connectedness and communication.

Additionally, all sorts of other activities and tasks can be accomplished on these small, handheld devices. With the newest applications, users can access GPS directions, digital coupons, weather forecasts, news reports, video calls, and mobile TV. They can shop online, take pictures, and download pictures to Facebook. Numerous applications and options have been condensed to fit on to a lightweight, portable piece of equipment. It’s no wonder that these phones are so popular. They’ve captured the essence of extraordinary convenience by bringing a broad array of information and entertainment to people’s palms.

Not only is it convenient for American citizens to make use of this technology, but it is important from an economical standpoint for the U.S. to stay competitive in the mobile phone industry. Though historically America has succeeded in agricultural and manufacturing industries, the current movement is centered on technology. Other countries, such as China, South Korea, Finland, Japan, and Sweden, are rapidly moving forward technologically. A strong domestic market will help to empower American businesses to compete globally. This generation and country have obtained wealth and intelligence. Society argues that we should take advantage of our prime situation. Why forfeit the knowledge to which we have access? The world seems to be headed in a new direction, and the U.S. wants to be in the lead.

As I evaluate the scope of arguments in favor of widespread cell phone use, it becomes easier for me to sympathize with those who take advantage of what’s on the market. There’s been a paradigm shift in the culture, but that change has been relatively gradual. The drastic paradigm shift has taken place in my life. The nation thrives on technological development, social connectedness, convenience, and efficiency. Through exercising listening rhetoric, I realize that society and I have common values, but at the same time, if I decide to compromise my preferences in order to invest in what the cell phone industry offers, I want to be careful to act in moderation. While society and I esteem social connectedness and convenience to be important, I still believe that there’s a subtle danger involved in this convenience, because it’s easy to waste time with all of phones’ capabilities and to ignore the worth of personal interaction with others. I must admit that by obstinately holding to my own preferences, I’ve inconvenienced others; a compromise could be a benefit both to me and those with whom I interact.

Exercising listening rhetoric is a challenge for me when it comes to this particular tech issue. I am prone to reminisce about my simple, carefree childhood. Maybe my real resistance is not so much aimed at “new” technology but at growing up in order to face the way the world works. This mental maturity is attainable only through practice and a willingness to listen. If I’m going to live in the world as an adult, I must at least consider the perspectives that conflict with my own. Perhaps listening will lead me to accept use of the newest phone devices with appropriate moderation. The fact is, I don’t have to abandon all face-to-face interaction, snail mail, or pens and paper. Maybe in considering and understanding society’s position regarding the issue I will be able to raise awareness about the possible dangers of being too dependent on cell phones. At the very least, I can appreciate the benefits that phones and their applications provide to society as a whole.