"Turkle's thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world."
Like most ideas put out there for pushing sales of a book, this one is overstated. However, there is a kernel of truth here. As Catholics, we are naturally sacramental thinkers/doers; that is, we think and act in ways that reveal and enact God's grace to ourselves and others. Technology can certainly be used to reveal God's grace, but it can be abused as well.
The distinction between the use and abuse of a good is as old as the Bible. St. Augustine made it a central feature of his moral theology. Aquinas followed his lead. And the Church continues to teach that any Good Use can be turned to Abuse. Think of food, alcohol, sex, money, relationships, etc.
My biggest complaint with cell phones is that they tend to interrupt face-to-face contact by demanding immediate attention. Like a small child who hasn't quite learned the social skills to politely excuse himself, cell phones ring/sing/squeal until they are attended to. Of course, its the cell phone owner who abuses the personal contact by dropping the conversation and answering the phone.
At the root of the Evil that is the Cell Phone is the notion that we must all be 100% available 100% of the time. The lie told by the cell phone is that we are 100% available 100% of the time. We aren't. Sometimes we are at Mass or in the confessional or visiting with a friend or shopping for the family. We are occupied and the squealing cell phone is a rude intrusion.
Now, before the comboxes fill up with stories about how having a cell phone available helped to save a life, etc. I know. I know. I really do. They are more than just convenient sometimes. But tell the truth: how many times have you answered your cell since you've had one? How many of those times have been calls that were truly urgent, meaning to have missed the call would have meant injury or death to a loved one? How many times do you hear people in the check out line or at the gym or even in church just shooting the breeze with someone on the cell instead of attending to the business and the people right in front of them?
A story: I was looking for a book in a Borders one night. The place was packed. The guy standing next to me was on his cell. He was telling the person on the other end of the line that he was bored and that he had no one to hang out with. He's in a bookstore with literally thousands of books and he's bored. He's in a bookstore with more than a hundred people and he's all alone. Really?
If there's a better scene for a play on the postmodern human condition than this one, please let me know.
P.S. The irony of grousing on my blog about the alienating effects of technology has not escaped me.
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