Before I begin my long-awaited blogg post (its practically been a month since my last one-- sorry to all of you dedicated readers checking your facebook statuses every day anxiously awaiting tidings of my new post), I wanted to give a shout out to my big Little Man, Avrumie, on the occasion of his fifth birthday. It was 5 years ago today, the day before Chanukah that he made his grand entrance into the world in Up-town Manhattan, and he has given us unending joy ever since.
On November 6, 2013, I received a very disturbing email from my favorite airline, Jet Blue. Sorry to all you good folks reading this blogg who work for Southwest-- I love you too-- but there is nothing quite like Jet Blue. Maybe its the blue potato chips. Maybe its the incredible customer service. Maybe its the pleasant late night flights. I don't quite know what it is. But Jet Blue is awesome.
The subject of the email instantly caught my attention: "Take off without Shutting off!" The email then said, "We'll leave you to your own devices. We know you and your personal electronic devices go hand-in-hand. Now you can use smartphones, tablets and similar devices from departure gate to arrival gate..."
Henry, it used to be, back in the old days, that if you wanted to go online, you had to sit in front of your big fat desk top, wait for AOL 3.0 to dial up, and then you would be connected. Then, we evolved to world of cable connections, wifi, and eventually 3G and 4G. But even in the more modern times, whenever people would go on a subway or airplane, they would either have to sit down nicely and listen to themselves think, read a paper, listen to music, or just close their eyes. The one consistent sanctuary people would have from constant connectivity was the airplane flight. But now, because our devices and us go "hand in hand," that sanctuary has been stripped from us, and we can always remain connected.
I was disappointed to read the email from Jet Blue, because I think that we are all addicted to our iphones and androids, and society is simply perpetuating our addiction. You might be thinking, dear Henry, "whats so bad about this addiction to our iphones? After all, it means that I can read your blogg mere seconds after you post it!" Henry, while this is true, and undeniably a tremendous benefit of the speedy connectivity we find ourselves in, it is also true and undeniable that our addiction to technology has ruined our ability to communicate with one another. It is hard to focus on the person we are speaking to when our phones are buzzing in our pockets. It is hard to bother dialing a phone number, when I can send you a text, in a shorter amount of time. It is hard to read a book, have a meaningful conversation, or spend quality time with children, when I can see whats going on with my fantasy football team right now, or when I can see what interesting tweets are flying around the twitterverse.
But as much as these devices are messing up our ability to communicate, they are also messing up our ability to think. Rather than bother thinking, I usually just pull out my phone, and check my email for the 78th time today. Its as if we are afraid to be left alone to our own thoughts, and I think it messes with our ability to be thoughtful, introspective, creative individuals.
Thank G-d, as an observant Jew, I have Shabbos. On Shabbos I have no choice but to power down, and there is no greater feeling of serenity in the world. Having the opportunity to connect to myself, my loved ones, and G-d, with no outside distractions, is more precious than a little baby playing with his or her toe jam. In fact, even the non-religious world, is picking up on this concept, referring to a "secular sabbath," in which people turn off their devices. (See great article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/fashion/02sabbath.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)
I double dogg dare all of my devoted readers, (and I am also speaking to myself) to consider three steps to overcome our addiction: A) Walk around 1 day with a pen and paper, and make tally's every single time we check our email from our phones. This will prove to us, that we are in fact, insanely addicted to our phones. B) Read this essay that deals with how to connect to yourself: http://www.aish.com/sp/48w/48971986.html C) Take a break from your phone- an I-phone shabbos if you will. Turn off your phone at 4:15 Friday afternoon, and leave it off till 5:30 PM Saturday evening. You will thank me.
To Jet Blue, I thank you. I thank you for waking me up, exposing me to the tragic reality that my phone and I really do go hand in hand. That needs to change. And it will.