I love checking out the news from a variety of sources. One of my favorites (CNN.com) often has some pretty interesting news items. Of course, as with any other news source, I often find myself wondering, "Did they really print that?" This afternoon, as I was looking around for interesting and unusual stories, I came across the following headline: "Restaurant offers a 5% discount to eat without your phone." The first thought that came to mind was a conversation that I have often found myself having with my wife when we are out. Do we leave our phone in the car? Or, do we spend the entire evening checking scores, looking at our friends' posts on Facebook, or reading through our email?
I was sure that we were not the only ones who had this conversation (sometimes even a heated discussion!). I look around in stores, restaurants, and even in movie theaters and see people texting away or playing on Facebook. I have a very hard time using my phone for Facebook because I get easily annoyed at the speed (I know, at least I am able to connect, right?) or the fact that my eyes don't see as well as they used to. I prefer to use my IPAD or computer for Facebook. It is much easier to see and "play" on. But, really, who has time to play?
So, I decided to read this article...and I highly recommend it: http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/16/technology/restaurant-cell-phone-discount/index.html. The articles reports of a restaurant in California that actually gives customers a 5% discount on their bill if they check their cellphones at the door. Really? Have we gotten to that point? Do we need to be bribed to put our phones down and actually have a conversation with the people we are dining with? What about conversation that has become so mundane that we must always be on our phones? As the father of a 6 year old who seems to always have to be playing with or working on some sort of technology, I ask the question - Do you remember the days before computers, IPODs, Androids, IPADs, DSIs, etc? I do...and I wonder how we made it this far?
The truth is that technology has opened up many, many doors for us in the world. We are able to really connect on a global level in so many ways. No longer must we wait weeks for communication from our loved ones who have moved away. With a click, we are connected. You know what? Technology has also opened our eyes to the many, many, many challenges present in our world. We can see first hand now the problems that exist not only in our neighborhoods, but also in neighboring states, countries...and even countries that are thousands of miles away. When I traveled with the American Jewish World Service to Senegal in the summer of 2011, I remember being asked to turn off my cell phone. My first thought scared me - how will I be able to communicate with my family?
As a world, we survived for a long time without technology. Now that technology is advancing at a rapid, rapid rate, we find ourselves wondering how we could continue without it? I would challenge people to try it. Turn off your phone, power down your other gadgets and spend some time with the ones you love - without technology. You know what? Shabbat begins in a few hours...why not try now? This is not an exercise in "how we observe Shabbat." Rather, it is an exercise in "how we can survive without gadgets." Maybe we can use this gadget-free time to think about how we can become a global society that takes care of each other. Maybe we can use this time to learn, discuss and get to know each other on a higher level. Who knows - maybe we will realize we simply cannot survive without our technology.
Since we are not able to just jump into a time machine and go back to the "pre-technology" good ole days...we will not know until we try it. Go ahead...turn it off....
Rabbi Erin Boxt