In season four, episode one of the seminal dramatic comedy, Sex and the city, Carrie Bradshaw tries and fails to throw a birthday party. Aired 20 years ago, the episode features a catalog of near misses and mistakes, which means no one attends Carrie’s festivities. All alone in an Italian restaurant on the verge of being a year older, Carrie returns home in despair to find 14 messages on her landline answering machine: “Take a cell phone!”
Of course, if Carrie’s friends were just as late two decades later, they would now have more options for reporting they were late – of course they could call her on her cell phone. Then they could send an SMS. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram (and even an email on the go) would also be options. It’s amazing to think that the episode is only two decades old, but a million miles away from the technology that we now take advantage of to keep in touch.
In fact, the mobile device has had such a transformation in our lives, I couldn’t help but wonder: with so many other things coming and going, is the cell phone the love of? our lives ?
More than three-quarters (77%) of UK adults know their cell phone number by heart, compared with fewer (73%) who know their mother’s date of birth, according to a new study from Infobip. The results examined how important our phones are to us compared to other parts of our lives.
So what else did we find?
The survey asked Britons about significant changes in their lives over the past 10 years – whether they’ve moved to a new home, bought a new car or cell phone, changed their cell phone number, started a new job or romantic relationship, and changed their last name. The results showed that the average person had at least 2 cars, 1 or more jobs, 1 or more houses and only 1 cell phone number. This means that over the past 10 years, people have changed homes, jobs and cars more often than their cell phone numbers.
In fact, UK adults aged 35 and under have a longer connection to their phone number than any romantic relationship they’ve ever had. The longest time that people aged 18 to 34 have a phone number is just over seven years, while their longest dating relationship is six years. A lot can change around us, but our phone number is clearly something we want to hold onto; it is part of our identity.
Businesses are also starting to realize this. They want to reach consumers when they are most captivated – by browsing their cell phones.
But Brits would rather be contacted by an ex than receive a cold call from a company: 70% of UK adults would be annoyed when faced with a call from companies they don’t recognize, compared to 18% who would be annoyed by an unexpected call from a former partner. This demonstrates that many companies are exploiting mobile communications to bombard customers with irrelevant calls and messages, resulting in mass frustration. This is especially important after a year when people are relying more than ever on their mobile phones to communicate with family and friends and to access services.
In fact, if we’ve learned anything from our conversations with the public, it’s that our mobiles are more than just tools. Yes, it is thanks to them that we stay in touch, access applications and stay up to date. But the relationship we have with our phone is crucial and personal. They are always by our side. They go everywhere we go. And for most of us, they’re the last thing we walk at night and the first thing we walk in the morning.
So back to Sex and the city. In the very last episode, Carrie reflects, “The most exciting, empowering, and meaningful relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.” And while this is true, the concept of ourselves has been redefined: have we gone from me, myself and me to me, myself and iPhone?