THE USE OF THE CELL PHONE: An Instance for Media Education By Fr Tatah Humphery Mbuy

THE USE OF THE CELL PHONE: An Instance for Media Education

 Dr Olvier Birnso' has just forwarded very useful information on Shundzev about some of the health hazards related to our continuous use of  what is popularly known as the CELL PHONE in the United States of America, or MOBILE PHONE in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and elsewhere.  We need to take his caution seriously and educate others about other related and pertinent issues.

We live in an era of mobile communication and the cell phone has indeed become a very popular cultural object. Although it was originally a military utility for exchange of information during war, the cellphone was has been so  vulgarized that  today, it has become the third dependency after drinking and smoking (drug addiction).

 Having read the submission of Birnso', I would like to make a follow up and share two points about the media in general and the cell phone in particular.  To do this, I would need to justify myself, by stating that the purpose of  a forum like Shundzev should be to create a ritual communication base for interactivity among Nso'(and their affiliates) sons and daughters. So let us take the liberty to briefly revisit the purpose for Shundzev.

1. Revisiting the Purpose of Shundzev:  I would like to congralutate Tav (what a humble title he has maintained!) Jumbam Martin and co. for the initiative to launch this interactive communication forum.  I have learnt a lot from it and I encourage others to do the same. Today, our Shundzev has become a site in which one can find every possible information about what is happening at home and elsewhere. I am sincerely happy to be a part of it. Death announcements, meetings of Wirfon, vital information and assistance to the needy have been some elements that have kept me close to, and proud of Shundzev.

However, there are still sporadic moments when some of us apparently abuse the ethics and regulations of a social network like Shundzev. Rancor and personal differences which have been expressed, are  some of the isolated cases that one would like to desuade. The quantity and quality of men and women who are involved in Shundzev,  indicate that Shundzev  deserves RESPECT and DECENCY. I have sadly noticed that some of the more elderly, "organized" and "scientific" wirfon who were very enthusiastic at the early beginnings of the forum, have today, either withered out or have become only passive members. Part of their reason may be some of the aforementioned and unfortunate contributions from some of us. While I would join forces with them to disagree with any contributions that are, by nature strictly personal and emotional, may I remind these "senior citizens" that the latinists always insist : Abusum non tollit usum - Abuse does not invalidate us! That some can misuse the forum, only confirms that we are dealing with human beings who daily need transformation and a change for the better. We are not angels and we will never become any! So all wirfon should feel part of SHUNDZEV and make contributions. All our experts in various fields should update us about what is happening in their respective fields in the world today. They should further educate us on how these  happenings affect us as wirfon and human beings. This is the essence of knowledge. Remember what the erudite Bernard Fonlon once said; and I paraphrase him: If a man's qualifications were so many that his degrees could take up all the letters of the alphabet, if such a person were so intelligent that he could square a circle; if he were so eloquent that he could even speak Etruscan, BUT if such a person  still lacked the courage to stand by fundamental moral principles and teach what is right, such a person remains an IGNORAMUS! (dixit Fonlon RIP)

That said, Dr Birnso' has indicated, by his forwarded attachment, an issue that most of us may not be fully aware of, but which INTIMATELY  touches all of us- the USE OF THE CELL PHONE. His concern as a medical professional, strengthens my convictions that Shundzev should be an educative forum. In our times, media education is a conditio sine qua non, for progress. 

2. Media Education: It can briefly be defined as the process in communication of both making people literate about the media (media literacy) and raising critical awareness  about the presence, the use and the impact of the media in our society. The media today is referred to as the FOURTH POWER, after Money, Politics, and the Church. We live in a world where the media influence a lot of what people think, say and do. Therefore we need to raise awareness among our people about the realities around them. 

In our digital world, it has become both a right and an obligation that people have access to information; that the right information is circulated and that the media play their role of watchdog and advocacy. In fact, Africa's sad past can now be re-negotiated if we use the media well and if media men and women recognize their responsibility to the future of humankind. There is no question today of dealing with SENDERS and RECEIVERS. Everyone contributes, in and through media interactivity, to produce reality and meaning for our world. That is why, it is necessary today, that right from our Primary Schools, children be educated to know, and critically use the media which have become part of their world.While we salute, for example, the introduction of the use of computers and mobile telephony, as well as some lessons on the media in our schools, it needs to be said that at this level we are still making the children only media literate. But as some modern educationists are now screaming out, what we need today is a participatory education for critical consciousness. And that brings me back to the point which Dr Birnso raised on the cell phone.

3. The Cell Phone as a Cultural Object Today: Society creates reality by "inventing" symbols to which they attach social meaning and use. The cell phone has become one of these symbols that our society has created and given meaning to. In modern Africa, not only has it become what Nyamnjoh and others (2009) refer to as "the new talking drums of everyday Africa", but the cell phone has become a mobile communicative cultural object that can be found even in the remotest villages of Africa. The cell phone has legitimately become a modern cultural symbol of connectivity. It has revolutionarized socio-cultural life in many place in the continent. In and through the cell phone, every citizen can become a journalist and protector of democracy because the cell phone has made it easier for everyone to contribute in raising awareness to what is happening in our planet. In some war zones, the only information that has sometimes come to the media, has come through a cell phone call or a twitter sent from a mobile phone. Today most cell phone are multi-tasked; and cell phone companies are working daily to meet the growing demands for this utility. In fact, many cell phones are fast becoming just mini or pocket computers. We salute this startling advance in technology. But there is a price to pay for it.

4. Some of the Worrying Impact of the Cell Phone today: Much as the cell phone has increased our social network, it is true that it is gradually taking away our interpersonal relationships and human touch. How many people are not busy with a cell phone when they could have attended to a needy person right in front of them? Sometimes people talk on their cell phones for hours and forget the presence and peace of those around them. Last week (cf Italian Corriere della Sera, 22 May 2011) a woman had to be requested to disembark from a plane because she had talked  continuously for over 16 hours on her  cell phone without any respect for the needed peace of other passengers.  In the West, where the level of individualism is unfortunately on the rise, people prefer such virtual existence to concrete human relationships. And this tendency is gradually coming into our society in Africa. Even kids are getting used to cell phones at very tender ages; and this has continuously made various phone companies to invent newer devices that are suitable for children.

People tell lies to others over the cell phone because few of the phones that many of us use have the services for detecting where one is calling from immediately. Hence a girl tells a boyfriend that she is in Nkwen when in fact, she is talking from a hotel room in Yaounde.

Also, many car accidents have occured because people were driving and talking on the phone at the same time. When you drive DO NOT TALK ON THE PHONE. It reduces concentration especially on a busy highway. Some people go into churches and hospitals, conferences and social gatherings with their cell phones still on.

Furthermore, this mobile connectivity is essentially PERSONAL  but many people today discuss sensitive and secret issues in public over the cell phone.

Finally, as Birnso' said, there are health hazards related to the public and private use of the cell phone. These risks run from the electromagnetic radiation which is medically unhealthy for human beings, to some brain and salivary gland tumours and cancers. Many people are not fully informed about these health-related problems and effects of the cell phone

Conclusion: Developments in communications technology have reached such a level in our world today that we can hardly hide information anymore from anyone. In such an atmosphere, we need to educate people more about the responsible use of the media. The particular case of the cell phone which has become our new cultural object, merit a closer study and awareness.  Let us help each other to create a better and more humane world. With our cell phone we can do a lot to change the face of the earth! But let us be aware of some of its adverse effects. 
Home AddressTatah Humphrey Mbuy SD
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Cell Phone: (0039)3312877620

University AddressUniversità Pontificia Salesiana
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