In 1959, The Flamingos sang the romantic song, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” telling of love’s blindness to surroundings while eyes are fixed on the beloved.
Who doesn’t want love that is seen in the gazing into each other’s eyes?
Today, it might be sung that “I only have eyes for my phone.” The longing to be together in person and make the kind of eye contact that shares an exchange of souls is being replaced with an obnoxious obsession to constantly gaze into the illumined screen of our mobile devices. I have no doubt that most people look into the screen of their phone more times daily than they do into the eyes of other human beings.
The emergence of the mobile phone has rendered us officially available….always available. It has single handedly destroyed our right to solitude and private time. In other words, we are expected to be available 24/7 just because we possess a mobile phone. If you have one, it must be on, and you must be available for anyone who wants you to be. Right?
The crazy thing is that we have subscribed to it ourselves. No more do we permit ourselves to have times we are absolutely unavailable.
Some might say it’s a great thing because what if there is an emergency, etc, etc. Yes, I get that. But it’s hardly an excuse for taking away a person’s right to privacy. I think this notion of constant availability in case of an emergency is bunk! How many real emergencies do we have that can’t wait until we are done driving somewhere, attending a meeting, or even finishing our prayers?
Why do we allow calls and text messages to disrupt every aspect of our day?
I consider this is an attack on our fallen human nature; namely the excessive desire to be needed by other human beings and the desire to be in control. These two fundamental configurations of our fallen human nature compel us to make ourselves unnecessarily available by phone. We need to be needed. And people texting each other incessantly throughout the day signifies this need. We need to be in control. Having the ability to update your Facebook page while you sit in the line of the grocery store is empowering. Silly, but empowering.
We are at risk of losing the gift of solitude. Life used to provide moments where no one could blame you for being out of touch. But no more. If you don’t answer your phone or respond to a text, there must be something wrong. People actually get upset if the person they are trying to reach doesn’t respond for a long time (or frankly, 15 minutes).
The dating world also suffers because of this. A couple are out on a dinner date and the phone is along for the ride. Either one or both check their phone during the date. They must remain in touch with the rest of their world.
All relationships are suffering from this problem. People take it for granted that you don’t mind if they use their phone while they’re with you. We have been forced to share someone with their technology, and to accept it. “Excuse me a second, I have to take this.” “Sure, go ahead.” Sure. It’s okay. No problem. I can wait. I understand. I don’t feel like an idiot at all. I’m just going to sit here looking around while you interact with your phone.
You might think I am over-dramatizing this. Perhaps. It’s true that there are good reasons to have that phone with you on a date, when you meet a friend for coffee, at a birthday party, or another event. There are good reasons to take a call that disrupts the time you are spending with someone. If that is the case, at least let the other know ahead of time that there is a chance of it happening and why. It should be pretty rare that you actually have to take or make a call. Can’t any of us remember the days before mobile phones?
I personally am grateful to live in a time of mobile phones. The benefits to having them make me never want to go back. However, we have to become more disciplined about having them and using them. We don’t want people interpreting us as being a rude person. We certainly don’t want to accept constant disruptions during important interpersonal time with the people we care about.
Just a simple thing like turning off your incoming email notifications so you don’t get those annoying alert sounds that you have new email can do wonders for your time with your dinner date. Phone interruptions take away your attention to the other person. The flow of a good conversation might not be recovered once broken by a phone distraction.
This is bad and it needs to be addressed. Whatever your habits are when it comes to mobile phones, you have to come to terms with them and make some changes. Your eyes were not meant to stare into a glowing screen more often than you see the real world or the eyes of another.
Mobile phones and even texting are great things in and of themselves. But they are not our lives, nor should they replace or disrupt normal human interaction. We become less human and weaker spiritually as a person as we let our mobile devices dictate our time. Reclaim your right to some privacy, some down time, and be unavailable at times. It’s okay. You can do it. Don’t feel guilty. Try it for a week and see what happens. Make it a habit. It’ll change your life.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.