Monday, September 5, 2011

Connect or Disconnect?

I have seen the video below posted in a number of places, and although I have a lot to say on the video, I would like to use the video as a stepping stone to discuss the topic of technology in general- phones, emails, Facebook, all that stuff. But first the video:

There were aspects of the video that I liked, and aspects that I disliked. To start with the things that I liked, I will start off by saying that it was very well done video and I was very impressed with it. Clearly the point of the video is to bring attention that we are too attached to our phones and our email, and we have to put those away, we have to disconnect, and connect with people in real life who we are ignoring. This is a really important message, and we’ve all been on the receiving end of people who are clearly distracted when they are talking to us. There are certainly times when we want to shout, “Stop texting and pay attention to me for one second!” Someone I know was recently telling me how she was so excited to spend the day with her husband and she was making a rule that he couldn’t look at his phone. Sometimes we have to put it away.
That being said, there were two points that I would like to take issue with. The second one is more of a curious question than an issue, but in any event, the first point is: Phones, texting, email, all of those are ways in which we connect to people. Part of the way the world is today includes the fact that a lot of contact that we have with people is through technology and not in person, and that is not a bad thing. Connecting to people in real life is not inherently better than connecting to people through technology. If a close friend of mine lives in Israel, for example, being able to video chat with her, and keep in touch through Facebook, is not any less valid of a means to connect with her then my connecting with the friend who I see once a week.

The problem comes in, which the video clearly indicates, when technology becomes more important than the person we are actually with at the time. What we need to be teaching people is not that they should shut off their phones and stop checking their email, we need to teach people WHEN it is appropriate and when it is not appropriate. What we need to be teaching people is that when they are with someone in person, that person is the most important. They should not answer phone calls or texts while they are eating lunch with someone, while they are meeting with someone in person. It’s not about picking a random hour of the day to turn off your phone. Let’s say during that hour you have some time alone. Well then texting and emailing would actually allow you to connect to others. I think the video was trying to say this, but what came across to me was that phones, blackberries, email, etc. are an evil addiction that we must limit as much as possible. Instead of saying that it is evil, we should be saying when it is appropriate and when it is not. This brings me to my next point.

The second issue that I have, or really a question, is: Why is this issue so important for a Jewish organization to be talking about? Shouldn’t we be focused on things like Torah, Mitzvot, Halacha, and that sort of thing? I mean, is this about the whole “half Shabbos” phenomenon of teens texting on Shabbos? Because then we should be focusing on the importance of Shabbos, not blaming technology. It seems like a lot went into the creation of the video, and I am curious as to why so much time and effort was made by a Jewish organization to create a video about something that is not really a Jewish issue. That puzzled me.

Additionally, on an only slightly related note, it bothers me when people, particularly Rabbis, tell people that Facebook is evil and that it is wrong to join it. I understand when Rabbis warn people about the internet. Though I believe the internet has a lot of good, I understand that there is a lot of bad stuff out there. Facebook, however, is different. Inevitably they cite the fact that some girl met some guy on Facebook and Facebook caused them to have a relationship that they shouldn’t be having. I don’t understand how one person meets another person through Facebook. The main purpose of Facebook is to keep in touch with the people who you know. I am a very big fan of Facebook for that very reason- it is a really great tool for maintaining relationships- keeping in touch is hard. That being said, it is ONLY good when used appropriately. When a girl tells me that some random guy friended her on Facebook (oh, and let me guess, he sent her a message saying she looked familiar or something like that) and she doesn’t know him, but she accepted because, you know, why not? Well, then I say that she is just being stupid. People need to be taught to use Facebook appropriately, and to be very careful about what information they share and who they share it with. More importantly it needs to be clear that a person should not allow anyone who they do not know or are even not sure if they know, to view their profile. Additionally, even people who you don’t know well, it is OK not to allow those people access to view your profile as well.

I am not sure why time and energy was spent on this video, but once it was spent, I would have liked to see a message about when to connect and when to disconnect, not only “disconnect and enjoy,” as quite often one can and should connect and enjoy. What are your thoughts? Feel free to disagree, I’d love to hear other opinions on this!



  1. I agree very much with your fist point. I feel the same way. The problem isnt technology but its being abused. We dont see campaigns trumpeting the banning painkillers although they can be used in a bad way. The campaigns should be focused on telling people how to use technology properly.

    Re. facebook, I happen not to be a fan. I had an account for a while, and was inundated with friend requests from girls (and guys) who i didnt know. The whole concept just seemed sort of wrong to me. When I later had a friend who got into this whole weird relationship with some random girl he met on facebook that just strengthened my resolve; I closed my account and am off. Good old email works just fine for me.

  2. Professor- See that's what I'm talking about- why do people accept friend requests from people they don't know? Your friend was using Facebook wrong. Honestly, I rarely get friend requests from people I actually don't know, and when that happens every other month or so, I don't accept it, and that's the end of that. The benefits of being able to stay in touch are worth it.

    Email is great for sending a message to someone, for one on one intreactions, but it is completely difference than Facebook, which is a lot of people all at one place at once- like having a conversation with one friend vs. going to a party. Also, Facebook is more passive, and therefore easier. For those of us who are terrible at keeping in touch, we don't have to actively email someone, we can just read what they post, and know what is going on in their lives, and comment. What about the people you're just friendly with, but not actually close with, who you aren't close enough to email and who probably won't email you? Some say they don't mind losing touch with those people, and that's valid, but I love being able to see pictures that someone from high school posted of their baby or finding out that a girl from camp found her dream job or things like that. But that's just me, and I do understand not having Facebook.

  3. There are those who argue that facebook is meant for making new friends... I cant say I agree with them, but its a position ive heard many ppl take. In general i find the whole idea of becoming friends with someone online slightly shady. Not to say it cant happen; ive made a few what i would consider close friends through blogging.

    I am one of those who feel that there is no need for me to be aware of everything thats happening in the lives of every person ive ever met. Putting them under the word friend is even more disturbing to me. (I just had to write a paper on that whole concept.) Email allows me to keep in contact with the people I care to be in touch with.

    The only social network im slightly excited about is google plus. But for now not enough people that I know have it.

  4. I was in a restaurant recently, and two girls came in, sat down across from each other, and proceeded t text. They wouldn't even crack a smile at each other. It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen.

    I think it is important as a Jewish issue, because texting mindlessly disparages others. Before we work on ben adam l'Makom, we have to get ben adam l'chaveiro right. We have to respect and appreciate others. It is very much a Jewish issue.

    As for FB, I agree with you. I have been friended and I ask, "Do I know you?" which they can't answer. So many just want to up their friend numbers. OK, maybe I'm "nebbie" with under 100 friends, but my private info is not going to be indiscriminately seen by strangers.

  5. Professor- I understand your reasoning.

    Princess Lea- I like your idea of why such a video is a Jewish idea, and I completely agree that respect is important. However I didn't feel the message of the video was "be kind to people, and don't ignore them" so much as it was mostly about being against technology. Respecting others is important and is most definitely an important issue.

    With regards to Facebook- good for you! We should be careful about who we allow to see our private information online, that is the way to go.

  6. "Connecting to people in real life is not inherently better than connecting to people through technology." Wait- what? uh...yes it is! When do you feel more connected to your friend? When you are having a dmc with her late Friday night after the meal, when you are both there in person and there is no phone or computer to distract you and you can hold her hand need it be.... or, having that same conversation through the means of text messages. And beyond that, if you have something important to discuss with someone you actually care about, I'd guess that you'd meet in person, or at least want to! Even speaking on the phone perhaps may not be good enough. Of course connecting to people in real life is better than through technology.

    I don't think this video was trying to say you should never use technology or technology was evil. In fact, it depicted several scenarios- where it would be appropriate to COMPLETELY disconnect from technology. In any case, I think the main point was to really make people more aware. Sometimes, when you are so immersed in something, you don't realize your immersed in it. Again, I think this video's intention was to make people more aware about the loss one may experience when they are so obsessed with technology, to the point that it interferes with REAL relationships.

  7. Like what tikva4eva said, I didn't see the video as being against technology. Technology is a tool, and can only be misused by their handlers. What I saw from the video was people being ignored by their companions because something "better" could be had on the phone, by conversing with the people not there rather than those present. Then they chose to put it aside and give others their undivided attention.

    Blaming the phones themselves would be too easy. And I have seen so many times how children are ignored by their parents, or vice versa, because they don't have the awareness or self-control to pack away the stupid phone.

    As it happens, I don't have a texting plan. :)

  8. Tikva4eva- You're right. I phrased that wrong. Let me rephrase. I obviously agree that connecting with someone in real life, face to face, is more meaningful than connecting with someone through a medium like a phone or a computer. I mean, no matter how many times I skype with a friend who is in a different city, state or country, I still miss them, and it is most certainly not the same as the relationship I have with a friend who I see in person every day, or every week, or every month. I also believe strongly that when you are with someone in PERSON, that person comes first. It is rude to text or answer your phone or otherwise interupt when you are with someone in person.

    What I meant by that statement was not that in person is not more meaningful (it is more meaningful), but I meant that communication through a phone or email is still connecting, the same way that talking in person is connecting. In some cases, even, email or texting is a more powerful way to send the message that you want to give. For example, if there is a lot of information, like if I want to send a recipe or an address, or something like that, email is more effective than telling the person verbally, face to face, because they will never remember it. And sure, DMCs are great in person, but sometimes in certain relationships, email is better. Sometimes it is easier to express oneself when you have time to think about what to say instead of responding in person. I have had some of my most important conversations that changed my relationships with people using email. Why? Because I needed time to think about what she was saying and process it and think deeply about my response before responding, and she needed the same. That kind of conversation could have never happened in person.

    In person connection is better in the sense that it is more meaningful and in that it should always take priority when technology tries to conflict with it. But it is not better in that it is always the most effective way to communicate information.

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