Can anyone put down their cellphone?

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Technology – it is something that our modern society thrives on, that we almost worship as the panacea for our modern era, for our future world. Advancements in human civilization have always come from technological changes. Everything from the discovery of fire to the wheel, from developments in agriculture to industrialization, all of these have advanced our civilizations and all were developments in technology. So it should come as no surprise that once again society has taken another leap in development with the modern communications age.

The cellphone has made meteoric advancements to our way of life, though this may now be a misnomer, as people rarely use it as a phone these days. We can text, listen to music, receive and send documents, not to mention we are able to search things on the Internet.

But have we come beholden to this very technology, and has it become an addiction within our society?

An addiction is an uncontrolled compulsion to participate in a socially unacceptable behaviour. For the most part, when we imagine an addiction, we see such things as alcoholism, drug abuse, and more recently smoking. Has technology made this leap into something that has become socially unacceptable?

It seems wherever you look people are on their phones, incapable of discarding them for any length of time. We have become conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to react to the ping of an incoming message. Has this become an issue that society must now moralize upon?

In the movie theatre, even when they are reminded to turn their phones off, there are always those that continue to respond to their phones, distracting others in the theatre with the lights from these bothersome devices. Or in a restaurant, the infernal phone distracts people, instead of them being with their company. It does indicate another underlying issue for our society – this sense of aggrandizement, as if the world would stop if the phone’s user did not respond to it at that instant.

The previous examples are more of a social concern than anything else, but what about when our attention truly is needed. Distracted driving is a more recent issue, which is an act that is surpassing drunk driving for causing accidents. Yet people still persist in this transgression. It is not difficult to spot drivers who are not paying attention to the roads, to the traffic, as they respond to their phone’s insistent plea for attention.

These devices too distract pedestrians, as they seem to walk along in a daze, unaware of the world around them. It is not uncommon to see them placing themselves in harm’s way.

The common thread running through these illustrations is that people are no longer present in the moment. It is ironic in that a tool designed to help improve communications amongst us, distracts us from fully experiencing or participating in what is around us, as if we are in a drug or alcohol induced trance. So, though technology can improve our lives, it can also destroy them if we do not practice some temperance with it.

John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.

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