The Cell Phone

It seems more and more of us use, and abuse, the cell phone these days. I bought my first one, about four years ago, to provide my wife and daughter some protection when they were away from home. Once I began to use one myself I found it "saved time," or so I thought. Like almost every modern technological device it did "save time" on the one hand, but it also "took time" in an entirely different way.

I am not a Luddite. I plan to go on using my cell phone. I do not think technology, per se, is inherently evil. But I do believe we can very easily become absorbed in new lifestyles that depend upon every new technological advance that comes along. This also creates an unhealthy "must have" lifestyle. And it can produce harmful effects. If you do not see these at all then you are not spiritually alert in some crucial areas.

A recent Chicago Sun-Times (December 6, 2005) piece by Andrew Herrmann suggested that staying in constant contact these days is quite "annoying." He writes: "The beauty of the cell phone is you’re never out of touch. The horror of the cell phone is you’re never out of touch—especially for mothers and fathers who work."

A study of couples in the Journal of Marriage and Family noted that cell phones "allow job worries to spill over into home life." That’s not all. All of life spills over into every human encounter you have when your cell phone becomes the new master in your lifestyle. Some sociologists suggest that the blurring cell phones bring into everyday life is bad and promotes overwork. I actually believe this is true. Others suggest, with some support, that cell phones actually make life more flexible and thus they can reduce conflcits between work and family. I believe this too.

Noelle Chesly, an assistant profesor in the sociology department at the Unviersity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, writes of "blurred work/family boundaries" because of cell phones. She found in 1,300 interviews that cell phone use "increased psychological distress and reduced family satisfaction."

I have no hard evidence to refute her research, even if I did want to refute it. Chessley, interestingly, argues that the problem of "blurred boundaries" might become irrelevant for the next generation since "people will not be able to manage life any other way."

That is precisely my deeper concern. If life is managed more and more by the newest technology then we will likely grow further and further away from reality, so it seems to me. Anybody read Jacques Ellul lately? Wonder what he would say about all of this. I think we know. A good dose of the French Reformed thinke would be very good medicine for most busy Christians these days.

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