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COMMENTARY

Danger ... Cell Phones!

By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director

Well, well, well, it appears that your humble scribe is not so crazy after all. About a year and a half ago I wrote an article called “The Wonderful World of Wireless Communication”. It detailed in great length my disdain for the cellular phone. Mostly anecdotal in nature, I chronicled my observations of the device that I declared would eventually contribute to the downfall of America.

People laughed, my colleagues scoffed, all while cellular phone sales sailed through the outer stratosphere.

But alas, some new research suggests that I may have been on to something.

A recent study conducted by information technology students at Rutgers University suggests that people are not only obsessed, but even worse, they are emotionally attached to their cellular phones.

A professor at the New Jersey school asked 220 of his students to shut off their cell phones for three days – no dialing, no text messaging, no email. Some panicked, others trembled in fear, and in the end just three were able to complete the assignment successfully.

Their professor, Sergio Chaparro, told the Sacramento Bee recently, “They were afraid. They were truly afraid. They thought it was going to be a painful experience and they were right.”

When I ask people what is the fascination with cell phones, they inevitably say they are not addicted to their “cell”, they are simply in love with it. They cite convenience, technological sophistication, and status as the reasons for their affection. But what I find interesting is that approximately eight of every 10 people I ask, immediately say they are not addicted. I don’t ask if they are but they offer it anyway. Translation: it is the old ‘where there is smoke there is fire’ theory. If these people are suggesting they are not addicted, they likely considered it themselves at some point. It is human nature.

People’s emotional attachment to the cell phone extends far beyond American borders. The problem is prevalent all over the world.

A recent Korean study found that nearly a third of high school students showed symptoms of being addicted to their cell phones. These symptoms mainly consisted of paranoia when they were “phoneless” and being constantly worried that they may have missed an important text message from a friend or relative.

In Britain, researchers uncovered essentially the same data, pointing to the fact that people saw their cell phones as “an essential extension of self.”

While I have officially gone on the record in the past as saying I will never own a cell phone, I have an admission to make. I have a cell phone. Yes, yours truly, the analog man living in the digital world, has broken down the walls to the cellular jungle and entered the wickedly wild world of wireless communication. For the record, I do not own the phone. My employer now requires me to have one.

Before I serenade you with tales of the telephone, let me say that I refuse to become one of those people sitting on a park bench seemingly having a conversation with the voices in their head. Nor will I be the person strolling through the mall with one hand pressed to my ear while walking in a zombie like state. I will not be one of those people who appear to be conducting an orchestra in their car on the commute home. And you have my heartfelt promise that I will not block the aisles at supermarkets, hardware, or video stores as I read a label to someone on the other end of the phone.

Just yesterday I was teetering on the brink of cell phone oblivion. As my wife and I were walking our newborn son through the local zoo, I received a call on my “tool of convenience” in the barnyard exhibit. Seemingly benign in nature, I fielded the call and began conversing with a business associate while facing the most enormous pig we had ever seen. Not two minutes into the conversation, snickers, giggles, and guffaws resonated throughout the barn. Upon completion of my call, I turned to face the source of my consternation. It was a family of four who noted that when they entered the barn it appeared I was having a passionately engaging conversation with “Rudy” the Yorkshire pig. I wasn’t laughing.

I am happy to report that I only used 54 of 800 “free” minutes in the first month of my contractual agreement with “The Big Brother Cell Phone Company of America”. People have practically been imploring me, ‘Use them up, use them up, use them up.” My feeling is if I don’t have a need then why should I force myself to use up my minutes just for the sake of it. The last thing I want to be doing is sitting at home at 8pm on the last day of the month and randomly calling people I don’t really want to talk to just to get proper value for my free minutes. I just don’t have the patience for that.

If I were to employ that philosophy, I would need to have talked non-stop for over 12 hours on the last day of May. No thanks.

Plain and simple, I believe we are a nation that is well on its way to becoming addicted to cellular phones. Companies are marketing cell phones so cheaply these days that virtually anyone can own one. Thousands of cell phone owners are under 10 years of age and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if a legion of homeless people living on the streets of America owned them.

Cell phones can be a dependable lifeline between family and friends, creating a tremendous feeling of security, but they can serve as a detriment to our society as well.

Said Chaparro to the Sacramento Bee, “It’s not about stopping progress. Nothing will stop the cell phone. It’s about making people realize that perhaps they are a little too dependent on them and that maybe there are other ways to interact.”

In I Corinthians 6:12, Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

Apparently, at the time Paul wrote this, some Christians in Corinth were excusing themselves from “small, insignificant sins” by saying that 1) Jesus Christ had taken away all sin, so they had complete freedom to live as they pleased, and, 2) what they were doing was not strictly forbidden by scripture. Paul answered them by saying that while Christ has taken away our sin, this does not give us the freedom to continue doing what we know is wrong.

Before you get frustrated with what I just wrote and leave the article, let me say first that I am not some crazy, legalistic yahoo. All I am trying to articulate is that some people have become overly dependent on their cell phones. You know who you are. You are the type who can’t make it through a day without hearing your personalized, jingling ring. You feel lost if you are separated from your lifeline to family, friends, and colleagues. The buzz in your pocket is a heart warming sensation.

Some actions are not sinful in themselves, but they are not appropriate because they can control our lives and lead us away from God.

Freedom is a mark of the Christian faith. Freedom from sin and guilt, and freedom to use and enjoy anything that comes from God. But Christians should not abuse that freedom and hurt themselves. Drinking too much can lead to alcoholism. Gluttony can lead to obesity. Overusing a cell phone can become a permanent distraction, even an addiction.

Be careful that what God has allowed you to enjoy does not grow into a bad habit that controls you.

Are you using your cell phone too much?

* Information used in this article from The Transformer Study Bible.

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