Do you suffer from cellphone separation anxiety? (Thinkstock)
Do you suffer from cellphone separation anxiety?
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If you feel anxious when you don't have your phone nearby, you are not alone. About 6 billion cellphones are in circulation on Earth. We depend on them for a huge range of services. We text friends, share selfies, order food, get news, watch movies, access clouds, etc.

Our cellphones not only help us manage our daily lives, but also connect us to people around the world. Cellphones do it in ways, and at speeds, that didn't used to be possible. While a very personal possession, a cellphone also extends us beyond ourselves.

Cultural anthropologists are studying how cellphones both come from and lead to globalization.

The global network of supply chains for cellphones rests on the backs of miners. Many live in Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. The miners are key, as well as factory workers in China and Brazil. The products are sealed and concealed under the sleek glass and metal cases designed in places such as Europe, South Korea and the United States.

When you dispose of a cellphone, you throw away costly minerals. They include rare earths, tantalum and gold.

Some anthropologists are analyzing how, why and when cellphones are repaired rather than tossed out. The Smithsonian's Joshua A. Bell envisions a future of future of users-as-hackers. We would open up and repair our own phones.

You can find out more about the study of our relationships with cellphones. Join us on Thursday, June 4, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast. It's titled Unseen Connections: A Natural History of the Cellphone. It airs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website.

Dr. Joshua A. Bell is cultural anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. He will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

Critical thinking challenge: How do cell phones lead to globalization beyond talking to people around the world?

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COMMENTS (175)
  • JosieW-1
    5/30/2015 - 12:07 a.m.

    "Do you suffer from cellphone separation anxiety?" There are more than six billion cellphone circulating around the world. All the cellphones in the world wouldn't be possible without miners. Cellphones contain costly materials such as rare earths, titanium, and gold. It's so cool that miners and people at hard work make our phones and we just take them forgranted. I'm so thankful for what they do and I can't believe how many phones are being used in the world.

  • GabiD-1
    5/30/2015 - 01:23 a.m.

    Many people all over the world suffer from cellphone speration anxiety. People are now using cellphones in their daily lives to do all storts of things. People are now discovering it is a wast valuable materials to through away a cellphone. I can totally relate to cellphone seperation anxiety because I am obsessed with my phone.

  • MaggieM-3
    5/30/2015 - 01:06 p.m.

    Cell phones are a large part of today's society and modern culture. Around the world, billions of people use the handheld technology. However, when cellphones do not work anymore they tend to be thrown away instead of repaired. The disposal of cell phones wastes precious minerals and could be avoided if they were repaired. After Smithsonian conducted studies about why people throw away their cell phones they envisioned a future where people could repair their own cell phone.

    I think this is an important issue and that people should conserve the precious minerals in their phones. However I am no sure I trust myself to fix my own phone, but think that people, should be able to recycle phones.

  • RachelL-2
    5/30/2015 - 04:37 p.m.

    This article is about how cellphones have affected us today, and how they will affect humans in the future. It tells where cellphones are made (Europe, South Korea, U.S.) and how they're made. Cell phones will (in the future) be able to be fixed by their users, so basically, anyone who has a cellphone that breaks will be able to open up their phone and repair it themselves. This will save costly minerals that the phone contains, such as rare earths, tantalum, and gold. I think this story is interesting, and hopefully I will be able to fix my phone in the future if it ever breaks!

  • VAdriel-Cas
    5/30/2015 - 09:37 p.m.

    I think cell phones are a great thing to have but unfortunately most people including myself over use them. I'm lucky because I can make do without my cellphone without feeling like its the end of the world unlike some people who really suffer from this anxiety and get a genuine feeling of despair when they are without their phone for an hour.

  • LBQuran-Cas
    5/30/2015 - 11:47 p.m.

    Technology has grown so fast that it's hard to keep up with it. More and more kids are getting cellphones and iPads. Also more and more people are getting too attached to the devices, which is not good.

  • 9caitlync
    5/31/2015 - 12:51 p.m.

    There are about 6 billion cellphones around the world today. They are used for many different things, such as keeping us connected to friends and family and keeping our lives organized. Technology has grown and adapted so much that connecting with people around the world is right at our fingertips and a long time ago all of this would have been thought to be impossible.

  • SpencerRR-2
    5/31/2015 - 03:42 p.m.

    This article is stating that over 6 million people suffer from the separation of their phones. This is because we do so many things on them and require the constant stimulation. Also many people strive for feedback from their friends as they text them or take selfies or whatever.Our cellphones not only help us manage our daily lives, but also connect us to people around the world.


    This is kind of interesting to learn about how many people use their phones daily as sometimes i go days without my phone...

  • SpencerRR-2
    5/31/2015 - 03:43 p.m.

    This article is stating that over 6 million people suffer from the separation of their phones. This is because we do so many things on them and require the constant stimulation. Also many people strive for feedback from their friends as they text them or take selfies or whatever.Our cellphones not only help us manage our daily lives, but also connect us to people around the world.


    This is kind of interesting to learn about how many people use their phones daily as sometimes i go days without my phone...

  • JackD-3
    5/31/2015 - 04:54 p.m.

    This article was about how cell phones. Cell phones are a very important technology in today's world. They connect us and are made by miners, factory workers, and people in the United States and in Europe. Many minerals are used in the creation of cell phones, including rare earth metals. Eventually, studies say that people are just going to repair their own phones to make them better.

    I think that this article was interesting. Although it did not seem to stay on topic.

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