Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Cellphone is the New Cigarette

Photo by Carrie Thomas

In case you hadn't noticed, smoking has gone out of fashion. Once a tool of actors at the dawn of the silver screen , a symbol of rebellion and a post-coital requisite, the cigarette has reached a level of appeal formerly reserved for asbestos and radio-active sludge.

I was speaking last evening with my good friend, Jason, about this very subject. He was lamenting the loss of his smoking friends to their non-smoking lifestyles, me included.

When I first moved to New York a trip to a bar meant smoke filled rooms that brought your eyes to tears and left your clothes smelling like an old man's smoking jacket. When the city passed a smoking ban in bars, the smoky atmosphere was replaced by an odd smell that can only be described as cleaning products used to cover up the smell of stale smoke. For a while, this chemical smell lingured. Now, I don't really notice any smell at all upon entering a bar.

Cigarettes, though thoroughly demonized served a purpose. This purpose was to create an illusion of busy-ness. People want something to fiddle with, suck on and flick to keep from staring at a blank wall letting others see how utterly alone and purposeless they fear they look.

Cigarettes are also a barrier. People fear close contact and interaction. A cigarette is a distraction, a reason to pause in a conversation and think of a witty retort while taking a long deep drag.

Obviously this void had to be filled. Thank god that angels decended from the heavens bearing cellphones, sidekicks and treos. These gifts have allowed for constant contact, something so necessary for human existence. Why carry on a conversation with someone when you can pretend you're listening while text messaging? Are we more connected? I think the answer is no. We are all disconnecting from each other. We are plugging in and unplugging from reality.

Ask yourself the question....How long can you go without grabbing your little device to check your messages, send a text, or pretend you're busy? How long can you go without taking a deep drag?

Yes, the cellphone is the new cigarette.

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