What the sweet baby Moses is going on? Ever since this quarter started, I hear clips of jingly little tunes coming from pockets in the Concourse. I see classmates’ thumbs ablaze with rapid-fire text messages in class. People hold their ears and talk to themselves as they pass me on walkways. Cell phones are here, and the social implications for Principia are already beginning to take effect. It’s been a long time coming, but does that mean we have to like the new tower? I wasn’t sure, so in an effort to make up my mind, I made a list of pros and cons.

Cell reception

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PRO: Principia can seem unwelcoming to visiting professors, speakers, prospective students, etc. It’s a walk in the park to get talented and interesting people to relocate to the bustling metropolis of Elsah, right? False. It must be like pulling teeth to get important visitors to stay somewhere that can feel so disconnected from the rest of the world. Cell phone reception reduces that problem immensely.

CON: It is my generation’s constant fear that we will be bored for even one second. We have been overly stimulated our whole lives with video games, computers, instant messaging, etc. People my age like to fill space. Cell phones never let us get bored. There is always someone to call or text, a game to play, or, with smartphones, an e-mail to read.

At Principia, it was seriously refreshing that a cell phone could not fill in gaps of life meant for contemplation, like walking between locations or any form of waiting. No more. Of course, no one can ever mandate how present anyone is, but I guarantee that interactions with others and our environment will be less direct with cell phones around.

PRO: Finally, I don’t have to rummage through all my desk drawers to find a phone card when it is of dire importance to make an off-campus call.

CON: On the other hand, I no longer have a standing excuse for how infrequently I call family and friends back.

PRO: It is less likely that someone will disappear on you when you have plans. If there is a mix-up, just call his or her cell.

CON: It is less possible to disappear. I love hiding in the library, away from my computer and voicemail when I am really busy. Now, anyone can ring me up and I’ll be distracted no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Of course I can turn off my cell phone, but then what if someone cannot reach me? It becomes my fault for doing so instead of the fault of the world’s order.

PRO: Last week I had a pub date after a rehearsal. The rehearsal went long, but my date and I both had our cell phones. I was able to casually text and say I wasn’t going to make it. My date was able to receive the message. If this had happened a year ago, my date would have just gotten annoyed or sad, and we would have fought about my standing her up.

CON: Conversely, my sister and I were supposed to go shopping together last Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Without cell phones, I would have been ready, waiting promptly at the door at 8. It would have been rude of me to bop around my room until she came up. However, because we both have cell phones, I did just that.

For the same reason, she was twenty minutes late. Without constant communication, everyone must be responsible for the appointments and plans they make. I liked that setting a time to meet at the library was finite because there was no sure way to call and say you would be late.

PRO: We’ll probably get rid of our antiquated phone system.

CON: I like the antiquated phone system! I realize this only means that we’ll be moving to the more modern and efficient system of e-mail, but I see a loss of the Prin phone system as two-fold.

Currently, “reachability” at Principia is really simple.  If I need someone’s number I can type it in on Prinweb or D-I-A-L it. If we lose landlines, we probably won’t be putting cell numbers up for anyone to use. Well, at least, I’d prefer not to.

Like I said, we can switch to e-mail. However, I see that as a small loss for equality. Right now the Principia phonemail system provides equality in communication here. When students arrive, everyone gets a landline phone as their primary method of college communication. If all the messages and information we currently receive in voicemail turn to e-mail, most students would not mind. We probably check our e-mail as much as our messages, if not much more.

But what if a student does not have a computer? Take me, for example. My computer is currently broken. Thus, I have been living this quarter without one, and I definitely check my e-mail less frequently. Having to walk down to the basement (and getting locked out of my hall if it’s past midnight) or to stay extra-late in a school building after class is only appealing when I’m expecting something important online.

Also, the openness of labs means you can’t communicate privately. People come in and talk to me frequently, even though I am trying to engage in my personal life. At least it’s nice that my phonemail system will always be accessible from all over campus, and available to everyone in the same way.

So, do we have to like the new tower?  I say yes.  The truth of the matter is that Principia was behind the times without cell service. Let’s be real. With our code rules, lack of caffeine, and religious services held in a dining room, we don’t need any more reasons for outsiders to consider Prin as having a cult-like atmosphere. And as many repercussions as there will be, it is symbolic and important for Principia to keep up to date with other colleges. Plain and simple.

I will get used to it; I just might need some time to mourn. Hopefully, the mourning period won’t be interrupted by my new ringtone.

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