|An increasingly ubiquitous sight|
His answer made a lot more sense to me than the reasons constantly given by Charedi rabbinic leaders. They kept pointing to porn addiction as the primary reason for forbidding it. His reason had nothing to do with porn addiction. He said he knew himself and if he had it, he would become addicted to it. Even if it was all in a good way - it would take time away from his learning and other responsibilities. He did not believe that porn addiction was the main culprit (although he agreed that it was a problem for some). He understood then what we all know now. It is the addiction that is the real enemy. An addiction that has now found its home mostly on smartphones and texting. (I use the word addiction loosely.)
Studies show that smartphone addiction may very well be the most serious issue of our time outpacing any other issue in terms of the overall harm it is doing to the human race. And now that smartphones litteraly place the entire world in the palm of your hand, the problems is exacerbated exponentially.
Pew Research made the following observation:
The vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.
When it comes to teenagers the numbers are even scarier:
(S)martphone ownership has become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life: 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.
There seems to be agreement among mental health professionals about the harm this causes even to physical health.
Off the top of my head - included among the more serious problems generated by this phenomenon are: spending enormous amounts of time taking away from ones responsibilities to work and family; disrupting the education of young people; decreased attention spans; reductions person interpersonal social skills, increased numbers of people suffering from clinical depression; increased bullying; increased numbers of suicides…
Porn addiction is way down the list of negative consequences. Although it is definitely an extremely serious issue for those that access it which can destroy marriages and families, my guess is that the majority of people that avail themselves of internet technology do not access porn. At least not on purpose.
I’m sure that all this just scratches the surface of the problems this phenomenon has generated. The real problem is the addiction itself. If we are to be honest, my guess is that we all know people that are addicted at one level or another. Some of whom might be us!
So what’s the solution to this problem? Do we throw out the technology as some rabbinic leaders on the right insist we do? Even though we may not agree on the reasons to do so, clearly the seriousness of the issue is not in dispute.
My answer is an unequivocal no. The technology is way to valuable to throw out. Furthermore, it would be futile to even attempt it. Although some people will follow their leaders directive - forbidding it is a sure fire way to get more people to use it. ‘Mayim Genuvim Yimatku’ say Chazal – stolen waters are sweet.
It is rather well known that the Chasidic community whose rabbis are among the fiercest in their opposition to smartphone use nevertheless finds a significant minority of Chasidim (if not the majority) owning or using them.
I need not go into the benefits of a smartphone. Suffice it to say that the benefits are huge. There is nothing going to stop that.
What about the obvious downside that this post has clearly acknowledged? Indeed! …perhaps the downside is worth abandoning the technology after all - no matter what the consequences!
The solution is not that clear cut. Use of a smartphone is wide that it will someday no doubt become the primary means of communication for everyone - if we are not already there.
Nevertheless, I think key to beating this scourge is something we all already know. It is something we should all strive to achieve: Self control.
It is imperative to learn how to limit its use. Some of us can do it easily. I for one do not spend a lot of time on my smart phone. I do not need to text all of my thoughts to a friend or group of friends. I do not feel the need to immediately respond to every text I get. I rarely initiate conversations via text.
I would, however, never go back to a time where I did not have the world in my hands. When I want to get information on any subject, I get it instantly in most cases. And if I wish to convey a message to someone without having an extended conversation I can do it with just a few words. All of which saves a lot of valuable time I might otherwise spend trying to do it the old fashioned way.
When used in this way, it is used the way it was intended to be used, It is when it becomes your whole life that it becomes a serious problem.
The problem is in getting everyone to use it that way, instead of being attached – even enslaved to it 24/7.
Once you get into a habit, it is hard to change. This is the problem lies in my view. If you can’t do it on your own, then therapy might be necessary. Because the alternative of continued addiction can ruin your life.
Updated: 7/15/18 at 3:00 PM
Updated: 7/15/18 at 3:00 PM