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It's All Relative: Cell Phone Woes

 by Lucia Bill  published on Thursday, February 9, 2006


Life without a cell phone is pretty much unimaginable these days. While in high school, your cell phone served the main purpose of letting Mom know when to pick you up from soccer practice, today it is likely the only phone you use or maybe even own. Cell phones have also become a status symbol and for all those trend setters who get to walk around talking on their fuchsia Motorola Razrs, well, lucky you.

But whether you had a Blackberry before Diddy did, or you're still sporting the model that came free with your account activation four years ago, one thing is for sure: Cell phone use is a double-edged sword.

Like most of the American public, I found it amusing last year when someone jacked Paris Hilton's Sidekick, figured out her password and posted her celebrity friends' numbers online. I smirked as Paris Hilton's mean messages about one of the other talent-less blondes in Hollywood were made public. But unlike most of the other things Paris does, these can happen to any of us.

I learned this the hard way recently. A few weeks back I wrote a personal text message to my boyfriend -- and by personal I don't mean "How was your day, sweet pea?." I entered my phone book, but accidentally scrolled down one name too many and sent the message, without double-checking the addressee.

The result? My editor-in-chief now knows what two of her subordinates do -- and how they do it -- when they're not writing columns or drawing cartoons for this fine publication.

I think it goes without saying that the incident made staff meetings a little awkward.

If you ever find yourself in this situation, immediately contact the person that fell victim of your mistake, explain what happened and ask him or her if they could delete the message, preferably without reading it.

If the recipient has a sense of humor, the worst consequence will be putting up with a snide remark. If the addressee happens to be an employer, a parent, school administrator or your other boyfriend, get back whatever you can from your tuition payments, apply for a passport and move to Peru.

But sending an inappropriate text message is trivial compared to losing your cell phone, like I did last Thursday. With no backup address book and no extra money to fork over to T-Mobile, I panicked. Luckily, a kind soul found it in the classroom I had just left and turned it in to lost and found at the MU. Phew.

But then another kind of paranoia set in. What if the person who found my cell phone, was a creepy stranger, and not a good friend from my high school days?

He or she could use it to call virtually anyone -- my dad's work, my doctor, the fine people at the Department of Homeland Security -- and leave messages that would cause irreversible harm or even get me deported. Or they could read the archive of text messages I exchanged during a public meeting with a USG Senator, poking fun at a high-ranking official who was speaking. I won't name the public official, but I can assure you that being the object of his wrath would be far worse than having Mary-Kate Olsen refuse to talk to you.

Like e-mail accounts, phones contain a lot of personal information, and they should be secured in a similar manner. To avoid looking like Paris, back up your address book, always check if you have your phone with you as you are leaving any location, and save dirty talk for face-to-face.

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