Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - Derech Eretz In The Cyber Age
A Simple Jew asks:
If a person is where his thoughts are, in this cyber age have cellular phones and wireless communication devices prevented us from being where we are and living in the present?
Dixie Yid answers:
There are two ways that people can relate to one another. It can be "panim b'panim" or "achor b'achor," "face to face," or "back to back." As my rebbe explains, that means people can actually relate directly to each other (face to face) or they can be as far apart as two people standing back to back. When two people are standing back to back, they are further apart that they are from anybody else in the entire world. The entire circumference of the world separates them. Whereas when people are directly engaged with each other in a conversation, or the like, it is an actual connection between two people in a real way.
There's the famous vort on the pasuk where Hashem tells Moshe Rebbeinu in Shmos 24:12, "עֲלֵה אֵלַי הָהָרָה--וֶהְיֵה-שָׁם." "Ascend Har Sinai and be there." Is it possible to be on Har Sinai but not be there? This implies, like A Simple Jew said, that one is where his thoughts are. If you are one place, and your mind is somewhere else, then you aren't really where your physical body is. The main thing is where your thoughts and attention are. (One can see this illustrated in this video).
So clearly, when one acts in a way that shows other people that he is not really present with them while he is talking with them, this is a major insult and an affront to their tzelem Elokim. When I'm talking to you, and I leave my bluetooth earpiece in my ear from my last conversation, it sends a message to you that basically says, "I may be talking to you now, but at any moment, I may get a phone call from someone else who I would rather talk to, so I have to stay ready with this phone in my ear." It also means that people don't always know when you are talking to them. You could begin talking to someone, but they don't pay any attention to you because they just assume you are on the phone with someone using your bluetooth.
If this is true with other people, then kal vachomer, how much the more so, it is true between us and Hashem. If you have your earpiece from your phone in your ear, while you're davening to Hashem, you're essentially telling the Master of the Universe, "Hope you don't mind, but I am expecting a very imporant phone call. Sorry!" Similarly, when people get on their Crackberries, I mean Blackberries, and check their e-mail, the latest sports scores, or do some Google search, it is telling the Ribbono Shel Olam, "I don't really want to be here right now, so I am thinking about and doing everything that I can besides davening."
A Simple Jew and I put together a few ideas for "Cyber-Derech Eretz" that you can find here. May Hashem help us truly be with the ones we are with, whether they are other people or Hashem Himself!
- If visiting another person's house, do not use your cellular phone or wireless communication device.
- Put your cellular phone or wireless communication device on vibrate.
- Don't wear a earpiece unless it is an absolute necessity. Remove earpiece at the end of the call.
- Don't use the cellular phone camera unless it is an absolute necessity
- Take of your sunglasses when speaking to another person.
- Do not leave your hands free device, still connected to the phone, hanging off of you, in plain sight.
- Take off your glove when shaking someone's hand.
- When you're talking to someone, and receive a call, even on vibrate, don't check the caller ID.