Tiny tendrils of dirty blonde hair fall into her face as she walks ahead, one Reebok in front of the other, staring straight down. The wind occasionally blows her thin purple scarf wildly, which often results in it obscuring her line of vision. After five and half steps of trying to ignore it, she gets frustrated, stops and flips it back out of her way with authority. She proceeds forward, hanging her head again.
But what is she doing?
Looking for four leaf clovers? Searching for that lost contact? Scanning for dropped change? No, no, and-no.
She’s texting. She is deeply involved in either a conversation, an argument or a joke. Perhaps even a combination of all three.
But not everyone is as obvious as ‘scarf girl,’ who walks with both hands securely fastened around that tiny piece of technology.
Cell phone is to ‘scarf girl,’ as bottle is to infant.
She rounds the corner and passes a boy on the benches outside of Leavenworth Hall. He sits alone, smiling and giving ‘the nod’ to passersby he knows. His fitted Yankees hat, almost brand new from the looks of it, shields his eyes from the sunlight, but not from his peers.
He glances down at the front left pocket of his faded blue jeans, and almost instantly his hand reaches in to remove the small, jet-black cell phone from its denim hideout.
‘Scarf girl’ and ‘blue jean boy’ are not so different.
Sure, she responds feverishly, thumbs moving a mile a minute, while he pushes down the buttons slowly, almost harder than necessary.
But they do have one thing in common.
They both have illustrated perfectly how students today are becoming more and more of a slave to the vibration, the beep, the double beep or even the customized tone.
Text messaging has become an unstoppable phenomenon.
“As a media sociologist, I am fascinated by it,” said communication professor Sanjukta Ghosh, who is well known for her strict ‘no-cell-phone-no-texting’ policy in class that was implemented her syllabus about three years ago.
“What’s so important that one needs to be available and in touch at all times?” asked Ghosh with a look of both concern and astonishment.
Ghosh admits she gets a little miffed when she sees the tiny electronics on students’ desks.
“I think it’s disrespectful and attention splitting, but as an observer of youth culture, I’m fascinated.”
Despite a number of warnings, students still can’t keep themselves from responding to a text message, let alone just reading it.
The fact of the matter is, the more you do it, the more likely it is you’re going to get caught.
“I was caught once. They just told me to put it away,” said sophomore Seth McNary. “I just hid it a little more and kept doing it though.”
McNary isn’t the only student trying to sneakily send a text every once in a while.
If you look around the classroom environment from time to time, you can find that girl in the corner who has her phone in her lap, constantly glancing at it as if the plane is about to go down. And there’s always the boy in the second row who only takes the phone half way out of his pocket to see if anyone has summoned him since the last time he’s checked.
“I usually just text at my side unless the teacher’s out of the room,” sophomore Roghan Mayock said.
Some students admit that they’re actually addicted to messaging.
“I usually respond to text messages within five minutes,” said senior Jen Cutter. “It’s usually my friends, parents or sister.”
When asked if she was addicted to texting, she replied by admitting that she’d be lost without it.
Not everyone caves though when they see that little envelope or the phrase ‘txt msg’ pop up on their screen.
“If I’m not in class it’ll probably take me 30 seconds to respond,” said junior Ali Flewelling, who believes that students who text while in class are only hurting themselves.
“Some teachers won’t call you out on it, but they will deduct your grade later,” said Flewelling. “I usually just turn my phone off when I get to class.”
So what is so tempting about this growing trend that keeps students hooked?
Sophomore Brittanie Nolan plays with her light pink Blackberry Curve and explains that with texting, you can chat faster because you don’t have to wait for someone to pick up the phone.
Texting becomes instant communication, and that’s what cell phone companies are trying to push to their customers.
On verizonwiress.com, text messaging is described as a ‘fast, fun and economical alternative to phone calls.’
The Web site also stresses the importance of how one can keep their conversations short and private via text messaging.
Nolan also noted that you can keep your texts confidential and that it may be easier to say things via text rather than face to face.
“I haven’t gotten caught yet, because I don’t do it in class much,” she said, “but my math teacher warned the class that if you were caught, it would be read aloud to the entire class.”
Some teachers have their strict policies that involve embarrassing their students to discourage them from doing it again, while others use a more laid back approach.
“As long as it’s not distracting to me, I don’t care what the students do,” said mathematics professor Bruce Faulkner.
“If one abuses the privilege then the whole class loses it,” Faulkner said, “It puts more pressure on the individual.”
Faulkner also attributes the increasing use of cell phones by college students to the increasing use of cell phones by high school students.
“Younger people should only have cell phones to communicate with their parents and for emergencies,” Faulkner said, “not to use them as a general entertainment tool.”
Student teachers Casey Robert and Richard Levo now know how it feels to be on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Both are student teachers at Rutland High School who admitted to text messaging in a few classes while at Castleton. Robert teaches social studies to sophomores and juniors, while Levo’s expertise is teaching history, working with freshman and seniors.
“As a student teacher you’ve got to pick and choose your battles,” said Levo, “unless it’s blatantly obvious, I’ll usually let it slide.”
Robert has a similar stance on the topic.
“You can tell the kids who are struggling are the kids that are texting and not paying attention in class,” Robert said.
Both men stated that the issue of cell phones is usually up to the teacher’s discretion, but both admit that it does get annoying.
“It’s disrespectful and it’s even worse when they think they’re being sneaky about it,” Levo said.
“We all know those tricks,” he said chuckling. “It’s obvious when a girl is fiddling around in her purse for 20 minutes straight, or when a guy bends down to tie his shoe and it takes him forever.”
The only question now is how do we handle it? At one point in time cell phones were considered a luxury, now they’re a part of everyday life. Where does it stop? Where do we draw the line?
“I wouldn’t be able to live without a cell phone,” Nolan said, critically thinking about the topic at hand, “but I could probably live without texting.”
So then the million-dollar question isn’t how we stop it; the million dollar question is, ‘What’s next?’
Only the combination of time and technology will tell.