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I am one of the very few human beings without a cell phone. Like a creature from another planet, I have observed this wireless phenomenon from the outside. How much has changed in the last eleven years since I started watching! I am a social person, but I feel no need to be always available, or to have a phone at the ready at all times. Yet, I see my friends and family unable to imagine being without their phone. I suspect I would feel the same way pretty soon if I got one. I'm here to tell you it is possible to exist without one (maybe a little difficult when you can't find a public phone and you need one.)

My reasons for not joining the crowd are not luddite. Eleven years ago I became an accidental advocate when a telecom wanted to put cell phone antennas on our building. Innocently I began to search for information on the safety. What I uncovered was startling, and has continued to be only more startling. There are many hundreds of studies indicating that the radiation from these phones, and their cell tower base stations, is biologically active. Multiple studies showing DNA breakage, cellular stress, opening of the blood-brain barrier, impacts on immunity, changes in brainwaves and heart rhythms, to name a few. Effects have been seen on humans, animals and plants. People who think that the industry's claim that there is no evidence of concern is true, just haven't looked into the real situation. For me, there is concern about the long-term effects, but just as important, I refuse to buy the products of an industry that is so blatantly obfuscating the truth. I've done my homework on this, attending international meetings with and without the industry, reading studies as they are published, and talking with researchers.

From my vantage point, what I am seeing around me is the flowering of a very effective, and in many ways unethical, PR campaign that is leading to the near addictive attachment to this technology, and the ever-expansion of it. Never having had safety testing at the outset, it doesn't have healthy roots. The mix of the psychological with the biological makes for an uncertain pathway to the maturity Ms. Terkle hopes for.

Now, when it comes to computers, I am guilty as charged. I do stick to the wired variety whenever possible. In my "spare" time, I'm on the internet a lot--too much in my opinion. Although I try to limit my emails by avoiding most lists, it is the way I have come to keep in touch. I have always been a collector of art cards to send, and my box of cards has hardly been tapped since I started with email many years ago. I find myself doing a lot of stream of consciousness surfing---one link takes me to another and another and...I always feel like I have learned something new. However, I haven't quite figured out whether any of it is of long-lasting value, or if it is mostly mind candy.

What is distressing is the amount of time--life time--that gets poured into the abyss of the internet. It's what you're not doing that is the problem. One of the things that becomes harder to do is to integrate your life. The computer can deliver a lot of information, but only you can put it into some usable context. There is a sneaking sense of unity that comes from just sitting in one place, looking at one screen, and sequentially going from one task or link to another. It is a false sense, however. The rest of your life can be completely dishevelled, but you can go to the computer to get the illusion of anchoring. I think that's part of the dependency for many people.
(Image borrowed from the cover of JH Weekly)