Getting Smart About Phones

I would like to add an important point to the op-ed titled “Imploding a Myth.” We are increasingly seeing an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to smartphone usage. Those who feel — rightly or wrongly — that they must use such a device cling to it as if it is attached to them. Every waking hour, regardless where they are, who they are with, and what they are supposed to be doing, they are looking at its screen.

At the very least, those who are convinced that their parnassah would be destroyed if they give up on this device should get themselves a regular cellphone for talking, and restrict smartphone usage to a limited amount of business hours, preferably only at the workplace. As was mentioned in the editorial titled “Thinking,” people are currently enslaved to these devices, which have taken over their lives. Setting strict boundaries of when and where to use them would help somewhat to alleviate — though certainly not eliminate — the crisis we are facing.

Name Withheld

The op-ed “Imploding a Myth” by Avraham Y. Heschel leveled some very serious accusations against smartphone users.

Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of technology, I would urge that we look at all the positive things being accomplished, the large amounts tzedakah being raised and all the chessed being accomplished through smartphones. Especially during this time of year, when we should be searching for zechuyos for Klal Yisrael, let us think positive.

Name Withheld

The author responds:

Thank you very much for your letters.

Prior to writing this op-ed I consulted with two prominent Rabbanim. Among the issues I asked about was whether this is an appropriate time to publish such a piece. They both strongly encouraged me to do so, saying that such articles arouse zechuyos.

Regarding focusing on the positive: While thinking positively and being dan individual Yidden l’chaf zechus is an essential part of avodas Hashem, this should never be confused with an obligation to warn against and do battle with spiritual dangers. Throughout the generations, whether the danger was posed by the Karaites or the maskilim, Gedolei Yisrael raised the alarm and fought against the dangers these movements posed. Contemporary Gedolim have done the same when it comes to the misuse of technology, and this article was based on their guidance.

Avraham Y. Heschel