Breaking the electronic leash: Crossroads residents play game of phone stacking

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Jan. 27, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Updated Jan. 27, 2012 at 7:28 p.m.

It could possibly be considered one of the most difficult games you'd ever play - and the idea is all based off that palm-sized device that puts the world at your fingertips.

Yes, the growing popularity of smart phones has become popular in another way, through a game called cellphone stacking, where friends who are physically socializing put their phones away by stacking each on top of one another to force good old fashioned person-to-person conversation.

Jessica Erebia, of Victoria, read about the game online and decided she and her five friends would give the idea a go during their weekly Wednesday night dinner at Tokyo Grill and Sushi Bar.

"The first 30 minutes to an hour all we talked about was how we missed our phones," Erebia said.

About 83 percent of U.S. adults have a cellphone, and about one-third of them own a smart phone, according a 2011 Pew Internet and American Life Project study.

The game itself began to trend after a Tumblr blogger posted the idea with some general rules, such as having to buy everyone's meal if you tried to reach for your phone.

Nearly a month after the blogger's post in early January, the post now has 65,758 reposts - and counting.

Erebia enjoys the idea and feels it can really help bring conversation back to the table.

Erebia recently purchased her Apple iPhone, and uses it for texting and phone calls, for the most part.

Still, she admits not having your phone handy can be difficult, even for someone who is not entirely dependent on it, such as herself.

"We were there about three hours," she said. "You're so used to checking your cellphone."

Did you find a great photo opportunity? Too bad, your phone is stacked.

Can't remember that name of the movie that is right on the tip of your tongue? Too bad, your phone is stacked.

Andrew Baerg, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Houston-Victoria, said the idea behind phone stacking makes for an interesting social experiment.

However, what is happening with smart phone technology is nothing new.

When the idea of television first came around, it, too, was cast as technology that would ruin family time and conversation, but that certainly hasn't been the case, he said.

"It's our mistrust of what's new," he said.

Smart phone technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to communication.

Some people may be so engrossed in their phones that they would rather focus on that than on the person right in front of them - this is the bad - he said.

But for the most part, smart phones are just another piece of technology that makes information that much more immediate, Baerg said.

Also, there is nothing surprising about wanting to check your phone if you hear a mobile alert, whether it be a text, phone call, or social network update.

This idea has also been around for quite some time.

"Is it that much different from our old rotary phones?" Baerg asked. "It's the electronic leash. You can't get away from it. There is this concept of perpetual contact."

Neither Erebia nor any of her friends, grabbed their phone that night.

And though they do not intend to cellphone stack again, Erebia now has a newfound appreciation for just how powerful technology has become in people's lives.

"You could see their relief on their faces when everyone was able to grab their phones," she said, laughing.



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