From vibrators to Verizon: new technologies create host of addictions

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November 16, 2006

8:20 PM

I was sitting on the UC Terrace not too long ago, cursing the obscenely balmy weather (I am morally opposed to sweating in November), when I overheard a conversation. This was purely accidental. I don’t just sit around in public places listening to people (usually). I don’t hide in the underbrush with a tiny microphone, trying to catch the hot gossip (generally). And I really don’t like being in on the secrets of complete strangers (unless they are particularly juicy). No, no — I was minding my own business when this conversation accosted me.

p. I was reading a highly engrossing 17th-century play, when the “thines” and “thous” of court intrigue were rudely displaced from my mind. In their stead were the strains of the conversation taking place right behind me — a conversation that would disturb the scholarly mindset of any normal college student. This conversation was about the Rabbit. No, I don’t mean that adorable bunny that lives by McGlothlin-Street Hall. I mean the one of “Sex and the City” fame, the one that cannot be shown on TBS. According to the two verbal exhibitionists interrupting my studies, the magic of the Rabbit is all in the spin action. And it’s totally fine to bust it out during sex. And someone on this campus owns two of them. And … well, you get the idea.

p. I used to think this was a school full of mumblers. People were so worried about being wrong (for once), they tended to tell their opinions to the ground, instead of to the person standing in front of them. Or they just kept them to themselves. Back before I got so old and wise, I found these habits annoying. I wanted to shake the people in my classes and yell, “Speak up!” Lately, though, it’s almost refreshing to find someone who does not want to share everything with everyone. For better or for worse, we have become a much louder, and much less inhibited, student population.

p. I don’t know, maybe the Terrace-Rabbit act was all part of some great social experiment, testing the reactions of unwitting subjects, like “Jackass” but with an academic bent. Maybe they were the unwitting ones, or at least the unshameable ones. It seems that more people don’t know or just don’t care that everyone in the entire world can hear what they’re saying. Maybe you’re extremely comfortable with your masturbation habits. That’s awesome — yay for you. That doesn’t mean I’m happy to have you share them with me. Sure, I think vibrators are great. But do you need to implant that particular mental image in the minds of all who share your space? I hope not.

p. So what’s behind the raised volume on campus? Are we just more open and liberal these days? Maybe the warm, snuggly feeling of the College’s community encourages us to share (and overshare) with our friends and neighbors. Personally, though, my bets are on that scary monster from the future: technology.
It has been pointed out by many before me that students at the College have a dangerous addiction. No, not heroin, not even coffee. Cell phones; we can’t live without them. We can’t even bear to turn them off in class — but woe to the poor wretch who actually answers her phone during lecture. Professors will remember a slight like that for years to come — just ask Tom Heacox. Cell phone users — so wrapped up in that unseen world on the other side of the line — often fail to notice that a world (like the classroom) exists on their end. They also fail to realize that, just because the person on the other end is having trouble hearing them, we can hear them just fine. And then some. Yelling, “No! I said Jenny hates Todd!” might help your cell-phone-challenged friend better understand Jenny’s feelings, but it also lets the whole campus know that Todd had better watch his ass, and that Jenny might be a huge bitch. Do you really want this stuff floating around the College gossipsphere?

p. Also problematic for those of us who would rather not hear your secrets: the iPod (or whatever music-playing gadget you have — rumor has it that other brands do exist). The iPod creates the same issues as the cell phone: in providing a highly insular world of technology, it removes users from the real world. Even more nefarious, however, is its simple effect on hearing abilities. People who have tiny music-playing “buds” wedged into their earholes simply cannot hear as well as those whose ears are free from obstruction. Those who place the buds directly onto their eardrums also tend to have trouble hearing even when the iPod is not in use. If no one can hear each other, is it really any wonder that everyone is talking so loudly?

p. As much as I love hearing everyone’s dirty secrets simply by standing around (no more of that underbrush business), just remember that everything is louder in real life. Oh yes, everyone on campus can hear you talking about the Rabbit. And yes, it is all in the spin action.

p. __Lauren Bell is the Confusion Corner columnist for The Flat Hat. She has ordered spy gear and camoflauge clothing in the privacy of her dorm room.__

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