When cell phones first came out, I thought it was yet another blow to civilization.
I saw red the first time I heard one go off in a restaurant with its owner behind me carrying on a loud “monologue.”
“This is the end of civilization” I thought, “the phone has invaded the last strongholds of peace and quiet.”
I remembered the story of a famous early twentieth century lawyer. When the telephone first appeared, someone convinced him to install one in his house. The first time it rang was during
the family dinner. The intrusion so outraged him that he took a hatchet to it.
I simmered down. After all, I do own a telephone.
About a year ago, due to crime in my city, I broke down and bought a cell phone.
It is still irritating when it rings in restaurants and other public places especially when, in the middle of a conversation,
someone stands up and disappears for a half an hour.
Everyone tries awkwardly to pick up the threads of the conversation again, but something is lost. And what about church?
Just the other day, at a benediction of the Blessed Sacrament—“bbrrrrinnnng!”
Certain places and occasions are sacred. These are the places and times we use to worship, reestablish relationships, or relax from the daily strife. Even certain business meetings that require the full “presence” of those participating may fall in that category.
Those are the sacred moments when we turn from self to God and from self to one another. To have an electronic device interrupt such an atmosphere is akin to desecration.
Still, the cell phone can’t be seen only as a useless, annoying tool. Like the telephone, it has enormous advantages.
Wireless enables people to address emergencies. To give a supreme example, it was a lifeline on fateful September
For some it meant the painful yet priceless memory of a last “I love you.”
For others it forestalled unspeakable agony, “I’m okay,” and for yet others it worked all sorts of connections.
And the benefits are great. No one needs loose his or her party on
a tour or trip. People can now put their minds at ease about traveling spouses, children and relatives.
Business transactions are more secure when time is a critical
factor. Women feel safer with help a call away in any given situation—and so on.
Yet, every new technical wonder introduces the priority challenge. The convenience factor is thrilling, and can
easily rule our lives as we begin to disregard the lives of others.
That should never happen. No matter how technological
we become, this world will always, first and foremost, be made of
To them goes the first consideration. We must rule the device, and not allow the device to rule us. The cell phone issue has developed into a real controversy. Due to possible traffic hazards, several states have imposed fines on using cell phones
Others are proposing to fine wireless users in movie houses,
restaurants, libraries, art galleries and concert halls. While fines for traffic usage have been approved, the debate over fines for usage in social places rages on.
One critic says: “We can’t outlaw rude people, we can only hope to
I agree with him, particularly as researchers affirm that approximately one billion people around the world use cell phones, that is, one in every six people.
With the cat out of the bag, there is only one thing to be done, work harder on our manners.
Once I asked my mother, “Mom, what are manners, anyway?”
She answered wisely, “Manners, is thinking of others.”
The Internet abounds with tips on what is being termed, “cell phone etiquette.”
It all boils down to “thinking of others.”
A few examples: When walking and talking or driving and talking, be aware of your surroundings so as not to infringe on anyone.
If expecting an urgent call, alert your companions beforehand, but do avoid making every call urgent. A helpful thought is the world can very well continue spinning without me. It did before the cell phone era.
When in a conversation, social gathering or business meeting, let voice mail take your calls or put it on “vibrate” if you must. Then, if unavoidable, excuse yourself politely.
Still, remember that in answering that call you send the unmistakable message to the person or persons in your company, “I have something or someone more important than you to attend to at this time.”
There are no two ways about it. It feels like a slap in the face.
Here is where we should always keep in mind the principle that reads, “Love people. Use things.” If we don’t switch this
maxim around, we will know how to govern our cell phone and not allow it to govern us.
Once the “thinking of others” rule— which in religious terms translates to “love your neighbor”—is in place, we may proceed to take full advantage of all the cell phone benefits. But if we are unable to reconcile our cell phone advantages with the welfare of our fellow human beings, it might be better to let it go.
After all, in the twilight of this life, we shall be judged according to how much we have loved. And every little bit counts.
Several mobile phones.png
Several mobile phones
10 November 2004
(Reusing this image)
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