Tuesday, January 31, 2012


"Why don't you get a smartphone like everyone else?" 

Why don't I? Despite my verbosity I have difficulty adequately expressing my aversion to cellphones, texting, and the like.  

Pico Iyer puts it much better. 
In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight. 
More and more services are being offered for not having technology available. 
Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky speaks on this topic. He explains what it means if one cannot handle silence and stillness. Listen to it all the way through; it is very informative.
Even half a century ago, Marshall McLuhan, who came closer than most to seeing what was coming, warned, “When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” Thomas Merton struck a chord with millions, by not just noting that “Man was made for the highest activity, which is, in fact, his rest” 
To be unoccupied is to attain the pinnacle of humanity.
We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. 
Considering my love for the English language, I refuse to succumb to the abbreviated lingo of the texting world, painstakingly inserting apostrophes and semi-colons into the rare textual communication.

The one time I became entangled in a texting back-and-forth was absolutely pointless and incredibly annoying. I was trying to spend time with the ones in front of me, but had to keep checking my phone and tap an obvious response.
Two journalist friends of mine observe an “Internet sabbath” every week, turning off their online connections from Friday night to Monday morning, so as to try to revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation. 
The 25 hours of Shabbos is not enough for me to cut myself off from buzzing and humming. I want to be able to hear my brain whenever possible. Would I be able to maintain this blog, oddly enough, without internet disconnection? I don't think so. 
A series of tests in recent years has shown, Mr. Carr points out, that after spending time in quiet rural settings, subjects “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” More than that, empathy, as well as deep thought, depends (as neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have found) on neural processes that are “inherently slow.” 
If my brain is constantly being distracted, could I be able to think before I speak? Could I be able to see other's pain and try to behave accordingly? Could I realize when I mess up, and ensure that I don't do it again? Being without a phone, I find, makes me more in-tune to others.

The author has never used a cell phone. His reasons? 
None of this is a matter of principle or asceticism; it’s just pure selfishness. Nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It’s actually something deeper than mere happiness: it’s joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”  
I like it that I can walk in fresh air without my pockets buzzing or music blaring in my ears. If I'm on the train and have finished my book, I like to look out of the window and hear the wheels in my mind turn, instead of waiting for a text. I make a point that if I enter a party and have no one to talk to, I won't whip out a phone. That keeps me open to meeting someone new. 

I like keeping my brain unoccupied and unstimulated so I can think. It is at those times, while my mind wanders from subject to subject, that I have had the most life-changing epiphanies. 

I shouldn't feel defensive if someone questions my choice to remain relatively unconnected. My usual response when someone asks why I remain cell-less is "I don't always want to be found."  

I regularly leave my phone at home, perhaps for the same rallying cry that had Scots daub their faces in woad and run screaming with axes at the English army. 
For freedom.


Mystery Woman said...

That's one thing I don't like about cell phones - sometimes I don't want to be reached. And yet...I don't go anywhere without it.

iTripped said...

Isn't it annoying when you call someone on their cell phone and they answer in their sleep?? The great thing about phones is that they can be turned off!

That being said, I was always anti-smartphones until I actually caved and bought one. (I wrote about my decision here.) While I appreciate all its amazing capabilities, I'd like to think that I don't abuse it. It's pretty rude when you go out with a friend and they're checking their phone and texting other people every two minutes. That's where I draw the line.

Princess Lea said...

I am keeping away from smartphones not out of self-control, but for fear that I will succumb.

I noticed that I can easily abuse the internet, surfing away when I could be talking to someone face-to-face. My self-control crumbles.