On Silence and Cell Phones

Have you seen the new Window's phone commercial?

I like the commercial right up until the end. I think it nicely illustrates a problem: Distraction with mobile technology at the expense of living.

But I find it ironic that a new smart phone is being marketed as a solution to this problem. That somehow this new bit of mobile technology is going to get us out of this spiritual and relational crisis.

In light of these mobile addictions--texting, web surfing, blogging, Facebook, Twitter--I'm mindful of a documentary I watched last week, on the recommendation of my friend Bill, Into Great Silence:

Into Great Silence is a documentary of the everyday lives of the Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse who live high in the French Alps. The monks practice silence, speaking to each other only once a week during a walk they take on Sundays. The film follows the monks in prayer, at work, at worship, and at leisure. The film has no soundtrack, so, given the silence of the monks, the documentary participates in the silence. Watching, you feel that you are entering into the quiet. (The film can be streamed for free from Netflix.)

In this world of mobile communication I find myself wanting to unplug. I'm craving the silence of the Carthusian monks.

A college student at my house last week talked about taking a week off from Facebook, a "Facebook fast" she called it. I find it hopeful that ACU students are bringing contemplative disciplines into their lives regarding mobile connectivity. We hand the students iPhones when they enroll at ACU and I often wish we attached a spiritual How-To manual.

For example, last spring I was struck by Farhad Manjoo's request at Slate for his readers to help him come up with a rule for cell phone etiquette. Specifically, when you are with company--family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances--when is is okay to take and answer a text message?

What is interesting about this question is that the etiquette rules haven't been established. Thus, we see the kind of behavior made fun of in the Window's phone commercial. So Manjoo's request highlights a real and pressing question: How do we live humanly and humanely with these mobile devices?

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One thought on “On Silence and Cell Phones”

  1. A text massage? Now that really DOES sound interesting!!!

    I de-activated my Facebook account last week after being on for 2/3 years and accumulating 300+ 'friends'. It has been very liberating indeed and I am surprised how in the first few days it was hard not to log straight onto it when I got home...

    I heard it said that Facebook is to friendship what Instant Noodles (Pot Noodles here in the UK) are to Cantonese cuisine...

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