by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
August 7, 2009
DO WE WANT TO CONNECT, OR NEED TO?
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- According to a 1943 article on "self-actualization" by the late, great psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Maslow, we've learned our basic human needs are air, water, food, shelter and clothing. What Maslow formulated was a needs-based effort to motivate us using what he learned through clinical experiences with real people.
Before Maslow, theories of motivation were formed through studies of animal behavior. Sigmund Freud and B.F. Skinner were the leading psychologists of the behavioral school. When Skinner died in 1990, he was lauded as greatest psychologist since Freud. And yet, it's Maslow's theories that are still used by management in our present-day work force to motivate employees.
The bottom line with Maslow is that people are not motivated when needs go unsatisfied, and it's important that some not-so-obvious "need" factors get satisfied first before higher ones can be addressed. According to Maslow, the needs addressing the physiological side of a person, their survival, safety, love and self-esteem, must be addressed before that person can grow to his full potential.
That's enough psychobabble. I'm interested in the need for cell phones, Blackberries, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and all the avenues toward instant messaging in cyberspace on your own schedule.
In the last two weeks alone, there have been articles in the New York Times about cell phone comportment. One article was about dining and cell phone use; the other was about manners. Is the proliferation of cell phone taking a toll on social harmony? Well, in many cases, I'd say so.
The cell phone has become so pervasive that moms and dads use them all the time while kids dragged behind them in supermarkets and Wal-Mart look glassy-eyed with boredom. If they act up or pull on mom's skirt just to get her attention, she'll say: "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" In Los Angeles, 27 people died in a train crash recently while the late engineer was happily texting to a young railroad buff. The federal traffic safety agency was caught in a cover-up just last week when newspapers revealed that a taxpayer-financed study showed how incredibly dangerous it is to talk, text and even sext while driving. The agency had suppressed the study at the behest of telecommunications companies that make the phones.
But on the more prosaic front. When the child is strapped into the car for the drive home, he or she might try again to get her attention. The answer will be the same. It's more rare to see someone without a phone than with one. Families are seen in a restaurant and mom is on her cell phone, dad has the Blackberry, junior has a small electronic game and the toddler has a pacifier and a spoon to bang. Is this dining out?
There is an actual need to feel connected and important. The cell phone is not merely a handy implement to own in case of emergency. That was our original reason for buying one and setting up a satisfactory service to suit our needs. But, now, those "needs" appear to be "wants."
"I want you to call me, I want you keep your phone on, I may need you." You can't escape and neither can they, whomever they are and wherever they go.
Growing up, it was not common, yet occasionally we would notice that a man walking down the street would be talking to himself, often smiling, sometimes laughing. Our parents would say he was "not quite right in the head. He was shell-shocked during the war." But today, I first noticed a Bluetooth device on the side of a man's head, his hands at his side, laughing, and talking to no one in particular,
I thought once again of shell shock. Although It's now diagnoseod as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the symptoms are the same as those I remembered from childhood. I was perplexed, but I left the post office through one door as the man with the strange behavior entered another.
In no time at all, those blue devices became common. Then the sales of iPods - supplying music to suit the taste of the purchasers - grew in numbers, sizes and colors to meet the needs of a public hungry for musical mobility. Not only does the iPod supply music but it gives the cell phone users something to talk about during their endless conversations: "I downloaded all my music onto my iPod. It took me all day but I'm so happy." Or, with Google results I found questions: "How do I download my music to my iPod?" and the answer was: "Just Google 'Download music to my iPod.'"
Everything appears so simple, yet all the things tossed away to satisfy this need to fit in and connect are priceless elements in climbing the steps toward our full potential. When maturity sneaks in, those missed family moments won't be there to be savored and become priceless memories.
In the article in the New York Times, "When Dad Banned Text Messaging," readers' comments lean toward family life and how it's being diminished. In this article one father banned texting for 45 minutes over the dinner hour. His wife, writer Debbe Geiger, was sympathetic to her daughter and wrote: "For many kids, it's a major part of their social world, and not having it makes them feel like a social outcast."
The commenting readers say there's no difference between land lines and cell phones. "As long as it doesn't interfere with her grades," says one, and "Gimme a break, your husband is right," says another. The underlying emotion here is that of a parent losing that number one spot in the child's life. What happened to make youngsters prefer friends to their own family around the dinner table?
Every generation has a passage from 'tween to teen to young adult, and the passage has pitfalls as parents try to pull them closer as the youngsters pull away.
As a child of seven or eight I wanted a toy typewriter that could make "real" letters. My grandchildren that same age have their own computers. My children were rarely interested in dinner with the whole family but usually the whole family sat on the couch and watched The Brady Bunch. Watching that, they learned family values, fairly good family values, and there they sat, side by side, together in their own home. Their underlying needs were met for air, water, food, shelter and clothing. Those needs having been met, they moved toward growth and self-actualization.
Did they watch too much television? Maybe. I couldn't judge = as a child, I never had a television. Are my grandchildren and their peers using their cell phones too much? We can't judge that. We never had a need for instant messaging.
For now, their needs are being met. When the next "want" comes along. we'll decide if it's really a "need."