Popular culture encapsulates the society’s wholesome activities. Popular culture is the expression of a society’s common beliefs, practices, rituals and ideas through various expressions and materials identifiable with a given society (Browne, 2005, p.3). The cell phone is one of the most prevalent communication devices across the globe today.
Nearly all teens and adults in America own at least one cell phone. When used while driving, the cell phone poses a grave danger to the driver and other road users. Unfortunately, the dangerous habit of texting while driving is extremely common on American roads and highways. There are two theories on popular culture that apply to the act and practice of texting while driving. The first theory is the theory of mass society, and the second theory is the theory of the culture industry.
The theory of mass society states that, popular culture is an intrinsic expression of the demands and aspirations of the people of a society. The cell phone itself is a cultural icon. In the American society, and especially amongst teens and the youths, cell phone is not only a communication device, but also an entertainment source and a status symbol.
With its widespread use, the cell phone has been the subject of many popular myths that have no logical of scientific foundation. For instance, the widely held myth that radiation from cell phones affects the sperm quality of men persists with little empirical and scientific evidence to support it.
The act of texting while driving is an expression of the status of modern society. As many Americans acquire cell phones and cars, the phenomena of texting while driving, however dangerous, is bound to occur. The average American engages in multiple tasks; therefore, the use of phones to send a quick message while driving is an expression of the contemporary American’s ever-busy schedule and almost ceaseless engagements.
The theory of the culture industry states that popular culture is an expression of the schism of class within a society. According to this theory, popular culture is an expression of the beliefs, values, practices, and images (icons) of people of lower classes within a society. Within the context of the theory of culture, popular culture is almost equitable to an act of rebellion towards the higher class and authority.
In the US, youths are most notorious for using their cell phones while driving. The act of texting while driving is perpetuated by the popular myth that the youths, especially women, can easily multitask. This myth highlights the almost superhuman abilities of a woman in performing various engaging tasks simultaneously.
Although various campaigns and advertisements by government agencies seek to highlight the dangers of texting and the general use of the cell phone while driving, the dangerous habit continues to persist amongst the youths. Some states like California have even enacted laws against the use of cell phone while driving. As the culture industry theory states, the persistence of this dangerous practice, especially amongst the youths, can be attributed to a rebellion against the authority.
The application of these two theories on popular culture, in the analysis of the popular culture of cell phone texting while driving, enabled an in-depth understanding of the practice/culture. The theory of mass society aided me in gaining insight on the culture of cell phone texting as an emergent expression of the youth of society.
On the other hand, the theory of the culture industry helped me to point to practice as a form of rebellious expression. Therefore, an analysis of the topic through the provisions of these two theories enabled for a much broader and in-depth understanding of the topic.
Browne, R. B. (Ed.). (2005). Profiles of Popular Culture: A Reader. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.