DuBois: Can you hear me now? Who cares

The invention of the cell phone has undoubtedly been one of the most influential developments of the last two decades, second only to Al Gore's Internet and Magic Sand, the sand that always stays dry!

Thanks to cell phones, people are no longer tethered to land lines for communication and can make and receive calls practically anywhere (besides the Lamron office). As the technology has improved and the market has exploded, cell phones have come to incorporate new features like a camera, text messaging, Internet browsing, games and e-mail.

And the market truly has exploded: According to the CTIA-Wireless Association, an organization "dedicated to expanding the wireless frontier" (as if it needed any help), about 82.4 percent of the U.S. population subscribes to a wireless service; at 250 million subscribers and climbing, the cell phone market has more than quadrupled over the last 10 years.

But Geneseo students don't need fancy statistics to expose the ongoing cellsplosion - the evidence is all around us. Exhibit A: The inevitable intrusion of an obnoxious Top 40/salsa ring tone into any given class, or if not a song, a high pitched buzzing. Believe it or not, your phone is still annoying in "manner mode" and yes, we see your Coach bag migrating across the floor, so stop looking around. A friend recently told me about a social experiment her professor conducted, asking everyone who received a call or text during class to raise his or her hand. Almost everyone did.

Despite the dizzying rise in cell phone use over recent years, the numbers aren't what concern me. What's really perturbing is the degree to which cell phones have fundamentally altered interpersonal communication and even the way we ascribe prestige. Caller ID and voicemail allow us to see who's calling us: That's great, but it also allows us to avoid each other - and responsibilities - like never before. At least with land lines you had to screen calls you weren't sure about, running the risk of missing the call from that hot girl from the other night or picking up that call from your employer.

Still more interesting is the evolution of cell phones from simply utilitarian to fashionable. I won't deny that cell phones have become indispensable to anyone wishing to keep up with friends and coworkers, but I will call into question the importance of having a phone that's so shiny that "Hills" heartthrob Brody Jenner can use it to furtively check out girls, only to be busted by ex, Lauren Conrad.

As phones continuously self-obsolesce, making the Razr look like a 1980s car phone and leaving the once-coveted LG Chocolate teetering on the brink of the uncool, where do we draw the line? When did a phone go from a way to talk to people, to a way to talk to people, send e-mails and update Facebook, all while expressing one's unique personality and fashion forwardness? And there's no end in sight.

Unfortunately, those who know me also know this column reeks of hypocrisy. Last month I traded in my battered but faithful camera phone and became the not-so-proud owner of a shiny new iPhone. It wasn't my fault - my dad insisted! But now my phone spends more time in my friends' hands than my own and I can e-mail you while watching the Sneezing Panda. I feel like a total iTool.

Matt Dubois is a senior English major who sneers at anyone whose phone has actual buttons.