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Sep 2 2011

Friday Night: The Difference Between Babies & Cell Phones

By at 11:53 am

baby on cell phoneI took my six-week old daughter to synagogue for the first time last Friday night. My husband and I deliberately sat in the back of the congregation. At first, the baby sat contentedly in her car seat as the beautiful melodies of Kabbalat Shabbat filled the room around us. After L’cha Dodi, the rabbi began to speak. As he did, two things happened. The first was that my daughter opened her mouth and began to cry (I don’t usually like sermons either, so she clearly got that from me). The second was that someone’s phone rang loudly in a jaunty ring that would have seemed right at home in a beachside margarita joint, but less so in a religious service.

As I extricated my child from the car seat and prepared for a swift exit into hallway exile, the usher swooped down on the offending phone user and reminded her that cell phones should be turned off in a religious service. The usher then followed me to the door and held it open for me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, gesturing toward my poorly-mannered baby.

“Babies bother me a lot less than cell phones,” she said with a kind smile.

As I left the sanctuary, I thought about her statement, and her mentality made sense to me. After all, babies don’t have a ‘vibrate’ button (if they do, PLEASE email me ASAP and let me know where I can find it).  But more importantly, babies’ cries need to be attended to…and more often than not, contrary to the way we behave, those of a phone do not.

Back in my dating days, I remember one dinner with a guy…let’s call him ‘Jeff,’ since that was his name. It was a first date, and we’d been set up by a friend, in a rare deviation from my JDate recidivism. We went to a Japanese restaurant in the Village, and talked about his recent travels and mine. On the date Richter scale, it was much like the recent New York earthquake – comparatively benign.  Until, out of nowhere, this guy I’d just met whipped it out. Right there, at the table. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2011

iDidn’t Bring My iPhone

By at 4:38 pm

I walked out to the park the other day without my iPhone and I felt free for the first time in months. I’ve only had an iPhone for two years, a cell phone for six years, and I haven’t worn a watch since high school so I first noticed that I’d left the smartphone at home when I went to check the time.

I was a late adopter of cell phones. I was annoyed but resigned to clerks in stores ignoring me to talk to friends or on the phone, but I disliked the fact that even standing next to a friend, I was now second to any random acquaintance who happened to call him up. And that was before smartphones or Facebook meant that the link to work or social contact was continuous rather than occasional.

I finally succumbed to the lure of mobile telephony because my wife was nine months pregnant and I thought we ought to be in touch in case she needed me urgently. It was a pressing need. I updated to the iPhone because I wanted to be able to take photos of my growing family and check my email from home while I was with them without shlepping my laptop and aggravating my aching back. That was also a good move and allowed me to spend more time at home (and my back to recover).

The internet is designed to be generally addictive and personally enticing. It’s a gateway to vast quantities of useful information and my devices, like yours, are set up to find the things I find especially necessary at the touch of a button. Anywhere, anytime. But it’s a creeping tool and I find myself holding my iPhone to take a picture of my girls and then lingering, like Gollum with his precious ring, on my email or latest sports news.

I didn’t stop wearing a watch because I no longer needed to be punctual, but because I didn’t need to be ruled by the time. The iPhone can free me to spend time with my family, but that time needs also to be free of the iPhone.

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