Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Life, Unplugged

Barbara Bensoussan

None of us consider ourselves addicts — and yet when it comes to our cell phones and laptops, our Blackberries and iPads, we often can’t keep out eyes away from the screen. Recently, thousands of people disconnected from their gadgets, and discovered the joy of being in control.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some years ago, I read an article about a fellow named “Seymour,” who moved in with distant relatives and became so disruptive the family was eventually obliged to kick him out. Seymour was always around, disrupting conversations, pushing his opinions, spreading his non-religious ideas to both parents and kids. But as bad an influence as he was, there was something compelling about the entertaining, vivid way he took over family conversations. It took a long time for the family to get wise to the damage he was inflicting, and make the difficult decision to put him out on the sidewalk.

Seymour, of course, was a clever pun on “See More,” and the author was talking about television. But television is yesterday’s medium. Today we are flooded with technologies potentially even more insidious: computers, cell phones and smart phones, iPods and iPads.

Technologies are created to serve us. The problem is that for many of us, the slave has become the master. “It used to be,” says Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, founder and director of Ohr Naava Women’s Torah Center, “that when a family took a trip, they’d get in the car and say, ‘Is everybody here? Did everybody put on their seat belt?’ Today the first question they ask is, ‘Do I have my cell?’ ”

A typical addict is so wrapped up in getting his “fix” that family and other responsibilities dissolve into tangential concerns, and technology addicts are no different. “I took my family to an amusement park last Chol HaMoed,” Rabbi Wallerstein says, “and everywhere I looked, parents were on their cell phones. None of them were working — this was supposed to be a family vacation day — but the parents were busy on their cell phones!

“These things are destroying our community,” he declares. “They keep families from talking to each other, they allow for inappropriate exchanges, they prevent people from davening with proper kavanah.”

So how do we return to our rightful place as masters of our gadgets? Ohr Naava, which defines itself as a place for women to connect, decided to spearhead an awakening to re-teach people to connect to each other by disconnecting from their phones and computers. They called it the “Day to Disconnect,” and encouraged people to commit to disconnecting for a self-determined number of hours this past Tzom Gedalyah. The goal was a million hours of disconnection.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the campaign was that it didn’t simply rail about the evils of technology; it tried to show the benefits of being able to detach, to enjoy a deeper level of human and spiritual connection. “We’re not telling people to live in caves,” says Elisheva Perlman, Ohr Naava’s director of communications, and the executive director for the Disconnect campaign. “We’re encouraging them to be in control.”

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Not a Newspaper
Shoshana Friedman A deeper difference between newspapers and magazines
Services in Shards
Rabbi Moshe Grylak “Such a painful, malicious lie!”
The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
Yonoson Rosenblum The old rule — “no enemies on the left” — still applies
Danger: School Crossing
Eytan Kobre The hypocrisy of YAFFED’s assertion is breathtaking
Real Laughter and Real Tears
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger The two sides of a life lived with emunah
Work/Life Solutions with Eli Langer
Moe Mernick I was proud to be “that guy with the yarmulke”
Is Ktchong! a Mitzvah? When Prayer and Charity Collide
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman These cannot both be done effectively at the same time
An Honest Shidduch
Jacob L. Freedman “Baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my secret”
A Blessing in Disguise
Riki Goldstein “I never thought the song would catch on as it has”
Ishay and Motti Strike a Common Chord
Riki Goldstein Bringing together two worlds of Jewish music
What’s your favorite Motzaei Shabbos niggun?
Riki Goldstein From the holy and separate back to the mundane
Rightfully Mine
Faigy Peritzman Don’t regret the job you didn’t land; it was never yours
Growing Greener Grass
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Nurture your blessings and watch them blossom
My Way or the High Way
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt We know what we want — but do we know what He wants?