Cedar Rapids, Iowa – According to several sources including first-hand accounts and video-surveillance footage from cameras in an Iowa mall, on Wednesday, Oct. 26, an Iowa teenager, Rebecca Franklin, 16, put down her smartphone and engaged in a face to face conversation with one of her friends.
The incident, which alarmed a large number of shoppers, caused major commotion at the mall as well as throughout the city of Cedar Rapids; and, as news of the event sweeps the country, reactions have ranged from utter shock and incredulity to an outright refusal to believe the video footage is real.
Despite doubts by many, that footage does appear to be actual undoctored footage and, based on available evidence at this time, it seems indisputable that on Wednesday at 12:47 p.m., a teenager actually found the person they were with more interesting than those he or she was communicating with on their phone – and that that teenager did, in fact, speak to that person using face to face verbal communication.
The incident happened at the Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids, which was crowded at lunchtime when the events unfolded.
“I can’t really explain how it happened,” Franklin told the Rhino Times after the unprecedented incident. “It was weird. I was texting on my iPhone and checking Snapchat and Instagram while I was shopping with my friend Miranda – Miranda Stevens – and it just hit me that it might be interesting to look up from my phone and speak to her face to face instead of texting or using Snapchat.”
Franklin said she had no idea what would happen when she tried it or how her friend would react.
“Once I spoke to her, she was very alarmed at first, but then, after a few seconds of stunned silence, she relaxed and spoke back to me and we just stood there in the mall and chatted for a moment – and that’s when everything got crazy!”
The two teenage girls, both cheerleaders at nearby Prairie High School, were just getting into the conversation when they were swarmed by mall security.
Lindale Mall Security Chief Randy Frazier said he and his staff were at first very confused by what was going on but they sprung into action immediately.
“We weren’t sure what it was,” Frazier said. “Frankly, we thought it might be some sort of terrorist attack.”
He said he and four other security officers ran to the scene.
“It was at 12:37 pm according to the video,” he said, “and we were monitoring the panel of security cams in our office like we always do, and our eyes were drawn to the lower-floor fountain camera. We knew something was wrong when we saw that Miss Franklin was walking through the mall but didn’t seem to be looking into her phone. Our eyes were all naturally drawn to her and we all gasped at the same time when we saw it. That’s when things got even weirder – she looked up and appeared to be engaging in direct verbal communication with Miss Stevens.”
Frazier said that in no time he and his officers were on the scene.
“We rushed out, not knowing what to think, and surrounded the two of them,” he said. “We talked to Miss Franklin, and she said she hadn’t meant to cause any trouble but said she had just been on her phone, and had decided it might be nice to talk with her friend in person. As you can imagine, at first we didn’t believe her because her story seemed so implausible. We wanted to detain her to get to the bottom of it, but we checked and, legally, there was nothing we could do. It’s certainly not illegal for a teenager to speak face to face with her friend, as alarming as it may be. I would like to add that at no point did any of our officers draw their weapons.”
Franklin said she certainly did not know she would create what has become an international incident.
“I didn’t mean to cause any trouble,” she said. “I just turned to her and asked her if she wanted to go over to the food court and get something to eat.”
Franklin, who has an iPhone 6s, said that her phone was in working order at the time, that she was getting a strong signal and that the Snapchat application on her iPhone which she would normally use to communicate with her friend Miranda was working; so the remarkable event had nothing to do with her phone malfunctioning.
Franklin’s friend, Stevens, said was she stunned at first and didn’t know how to react when her friend spoke to her.
“I had never communicated in that way before, but it really came pretty naturally after the first few sentences, which admittedly were very awkward,” Stevens said. “It was actually kind of a fun way of communicating. The only thing I really didn’t like about it is that I couldn’t figure out how to insert emojis into the conversation. It occurred to me later that, where I needed a smiley face, I could make a smile appear on my face, and, in place of ‘LOL,’ I could laugh out loud. Also, the thumbs up emoji can be duplicated by pointing your thumb upward.”
After the event in the mall, security officers escorted the girls off the concourse and called the girls’ mothers. The mothers reportedly both responded by saying that there must be some mistake. Both told officers that it could not possibly be their daughter given what had supposedly transpired.
According to Harvard Sociologist and Historian Karen Clearfield, who this newspaper spoke with, at one time virtually all communication among teenagers was done in this way: Young people would travel to the same physical location as their friend or friends and then converse using spoken language while looking into the face of the person they were speaking to. She also said that, if they wanted to share a picture, they would take a camera to the drug store, wait two weeks for the photo to come back, and then take it to their friends. They could also make comments on the photo at that time but there was no way to save those comments for later viewing.
There is, as of yet, no name for this new or revived type of communication between teenagers.
According to various reports coming in from around the country, teenagers are fascinated by the news and some others may try to communicate in the same way.
“My friends were texting about it like crazy after we heard what happened,” one Michigan teen, Claire Patton, said, “and several of us joked that we might try it, but so far, none of them have been willing to make the leap.”
Patton said some of her friends are intrigued by what happened in Iowa but others are aghast.
“Personally, I think it’s kind of creepy if you ask me,” she said. “At our school, yesterday, there was even a case of a guy who came up to a girl at her locker and looked her in the face and asked her out. I mean that’s just disturbing. Uh, we have a name for that – it’s called stalking. I swear, if a guy did that to me I would call the police.”
This week, Facebook, Google and Apple all filed patents on this type of communication though preliminary court injunctions against those moves argue that it is not subject to patent since it evidently was at use at one time before.
Authorities are alerting everyone that they should not panic should this type of communication among teenagers happen again.