May 30, 2011

Finger Pointing in the Wrong Direction

A rabbi is quoted as saying, "Cell phones have wrought devastation in people's lives.  Before the advent of cell phones, we would never have believed that people could stoop to such levels of rudeness and worse." 

He doesn't think people necessarily have to get rid of their phones (that would be a futile goal) but says, "If a person feels that his cell phone is beneficial or indispensable, he does not have to discard it, but he cannot become a slave to it.  A cell phone does not have to be attached to him at all times.  Nothing will happen if he leaves it at home when it is not absolutely necessary."

Seems to me that the problem is not the cell phone at all.  For just as knives and fire and numerous other even more innocuous items can be used for the most beneficial purposes or in harmful ways, cell phones are no different.

The issue is one of discipline with which we, as a generation, are struggling.  Lack of discipline is adversely affecting us in numerous areas of our lives and cell phone usage is yet another way we demonstrate our lack of control.  So it's not the poor phone that should be vilified for wreaking destruction but we ourselves.  It's not helpful to shift the blame.  Let's confront ourselves and see where in our lives we need to "tighten up" the discipline and take responsibility for our actions.


  1. I would not blame cell phones for ruining lives unless a person is trying to text and drive at the same time. That may do more than ruin the life.
    What seems to have impacted frum life is that the more that people rely on texting and other forms of electronic transmission, the less face to face contact that they have and the less emotional involvement that they have. When people are less involved, they are less likely to offer real help to friends and neighbors or organizations.

  2. People to whom I would not have written a letter and certainly not this often, are regular email contacts of mine. I think it's a wonderful way to communicate although it does not replace face to face interactions. Until phone calls became cheap, people communicated by letter and that was considered a fine way to communicate.

    I think more tzedaka is given and more Tehillim said thanks to electronic notification and I think that the rabbi was referring to answering the phone in shul, at the Kosel, at funerals and weddings, at the supper table, when out with one's spouse and family, at a shiur. That people have no sense of propriety and no discipline to shut the thing off or leave it at home.

  3. Personally, I find that it saves time not to have to call a dozen people to remind them of Shabbos Mevorchim Tehillim and am happy that they now get an email. When I did make such calls, however, some people actually did answer their phones and sometimes we had a conversation. I also really like the interesting forwarded messages that I get. I do find though, that if I am walking down the street and talking on the phone, it is a sign to others that I am not available to greet them or assist them in any way. The old folks who walk around here don't really love that arrangement.