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!