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When Cutting The Cord Can Be Bad

from The Atlantic

How the Loss of the Landline Is Changing Family Life

by  Julia Cho

© Elzbieta Sekowska / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

My tween will never know the sound of me calling her name from another room after the phone rings. She’ll never sit on our kitchen floor, refrigerator humming in the background, twisting a cord around her finger while talking to her best friend. I’ll get itHe’s not here right now, and It’s for you are all phrases that are on their way out of the modern domestic vernacular. According to the federal government, the majority of American homes now use cellphones exclusively. “We don’t even have a landline anymore,” people began to say proudly as the new millennium progressed. But this came with a quieter, secondary loss—the loss of the shared social space of the family landline.

“The shared family phone served as an anchor for home,” says Luke Fernandez, a visiting computer-science professor at Weber State University and a co-author of Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid: Feelings About Technology, From the Telegraph to Twitter. “Home is where you could be reached, and where you needed to go to pick up your messages.” With smartphones, Fernandez says, “we have gained mobility and privacy. But the value of the home has been diminished, as has its capacity to guide and monitor family behavior and perhaps bind families more closely together.”

The home telephone was a communal invention from the outset. “When the telephone rang, friends and family gathered ’round, as mesmerized by its magic flow of electrons as they would later be by the radio,” according to Once Upon a Telephone, a lighthearted 1994 social history of the technology. After the advent of the telephone, in the late 19th century, and through the mid-20th century, callers relied on switchboard operators who knew their customers’ voices, party lines were shared by neighbors (who would often eavesdrop on one another’s conversations), and phone books functioned as a sort of map of a community.

[ click to continue reading at The Atlantic ]

Posted on December 13, 2019 by Editor

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