Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ambivalence Re: Cell Phones

It seems the Jewish media have painted cell phones evil.
"The Gedoylim don't use cell phones!"

"What did people do before cell phones?" People ask.

Sometimes I see a whole line of people walking down Avenue J talking on cell phones. And yes, they look funny. But who cares?

Some dorks still get a kick out of the fact that someone talking on a BlueTooth headset looks like he's talking to himself. Why do I not find this amusing?

I find it ironic that Goyish magazines, like Good Housekeeping and the like write articles about cell phone ettiquette, which are valuable. Jewish ones tell you how they ruined society.

I've come to the conclusion that they're both good and evil.
I guess, for the Bais Yaakov kool-aid (Oy, vey, that's the Goyish brand) still in my system, I'll start with the evils:

Now, these "evils" exist because people are rude. They were rude/irresponsible before cell phones, and they are rude now. So, technically, most "evils" are just more manifestations of people's rudeness, not bad aspects of cell phones.
1) They've made people more demanding: If the bagel store didn't have sesame bagels, you;re expected to CALL your friend and tell him/her, rather than just buying him/her plain, and s/he'll deal.
2) In social settings, people text others, and constantly check their phones for new text messages. Umm, is the person you're with BAD COMPANY?
3) People are even less respectful to salespeople by talking to two people at once. When I worked in a store, it was one of my pet peeves. If your friend calls, you'll call her back. Now is not the time for, "So what's up? Yeah, nothing, I'm just shopping. Yeah, there's nothing here. Oh yeah? Did you hear about that? It was sooo cute, hello."
Why can't people use discretion? Answer calls from a parent, or an expected important call. That's it.
4) Drivers don't focus on their driving

As for personal calls on a bus or train: Who cares? They're not in a library. If they want everyone to know that their boyfriend slept with their best friends, that's THEIR problem. If Shprintzy wants the whole Q train to hear about what she's planning to serve her kids, or that Shloimy should make Malkie toast...well, that's her problem. Do I care? Hell, to the N-O. But, hey, what am I doing better on the train anyway? Reading Woman's Day? It's fine. Really.
Same for on the streets. Sometimes I hear such juicy stuff when they pass by, I'm tempted to follow them.

The good:
1) The obvious--emergency situations G-d forbid
2) Keep you entertained when you're waiting for someone, walking somewhere, etc.
3) If you're running late: When my friends will be late, they can call me. When they don't, I can yell at them that they could have.
4) When you meet up with someone, and aren't sure where you are...or if you want to change plans...
5) Free Nights and Weekends
6) Accessible--you try finding a working payphone, and carry Purell everywhere you go in case you do use a payphone
7) If someone's out shopping, and someone at home realizes they need something else, they can call and have him/her pick it up instead of sending people out a million times
8) A built-in watch, calculator, alarm clock, address book and calendar everywhere you go
If you have a camera phone: Serves as a camera and photo album, too.
9) Erev Yom Tov. (can go both ways---too hectic, but convenient all the same)

And, of course, porn. (good for some, evil for others) Which is why cell phones should be assur. Because apparently Lakewood Bachurim don't have access to real porn, ANYWHERE, so they have to resort to 3"x2" images?!! Don't START me on that deal. I've said it before, I'll say it again: If a guy wants porn, he'll get it. He ain't resorting to no miniscule image on a phone that can be found easily by his wife. Puh-leez, people.


At 10/24/2006 3:22 PM, Blogger Mindy said...

my cellphone wasnt charged on isru chag. i had to wander thru half of williamsburg to find a working payphone that didnt eat my quarters.

In today's day an age,a cellphone when you're out of the house is a must. If I couldnt reach my husband in the evening it would kill our sholom bayis. Thena gain, his constant ringing of thte cell phone is already killing it pretty much :-D

At 10/24/2006 4:21 PM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

I'm on the evil side and here's why. Let's take your "good" arguments one by one:

(1) Emergency situations: hardly happens. Maybe .001% of the time.
(2) Spending that time introspecting or just observing is more productive.
(3) Before cells, people made damn sure to be on time. Now they figure they can come late because they can always call.
(4) What part of "on the corner of J and 15th" don't you understand?
(5) So are landlines, not to mention that you pay $50 for the privilege of free nights and weekends.
(6) Circular argument - payphones are less common because of cells.
(7) Make a list beforehand. Again, like #3, people use a cell as a crutch to be less responsible.
(8) I'll grant you this one.
(9) See 3 and 7

At 10/24/2006 5:07 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Burry---I saw most of those coming, but the post was long enough as it is. So why do you have a cell phone?

At 10/24/2006 7:26 PM, Anonymous something anything?!? said...

Burry: re # 6
Of course you realize that cellphones are here to stay and payphones are going out of style faster than the latest black outfit from Brenda's. The question now is how the frum velt should deal with it. Although denying reality, I suppose, is as valid a Frum response as any.

At 10/25/2006 5:18 AM, Anonymous Gavi said...

The main reason, in my eyes, why cell phones present a problem to the yeshiva world, is that guys leave them on in the beis medrash and disrupt their learning.

When I was in yeshiva, I left my cell phone in my room during seder... Now (horror of horrors - I work during the day ;-) I put it on silent mode to track calls, and will only answer calls from my wife or parents IF there is an emergency situation. I don't think I am behaving any less correctly than my maggid shiur - who does the same.

At 10/25/2006 6:44 AM, Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

I think when it comes down to it, the cellphone is as good or as evil as you want it to be. You can keep it on silent and check it a couple of times a day, or you chat all day, not do anything productive, etc.

And the approach of many gedolim on this issue is similar to that of the internet: because some people have no self-control, and the potential exists for these items to be used in a horrible way, so they're terrible.

At the end of the day, I can't take these "kol koreh"s seriously. Everyone has different needs and different desires, so a blanket ban would not be sensible.

I've always wondered, btw, why gedolim give landline phones a free pass. They cause a lot of lashon hora, and if people call certain numbers, they can hear very inappropriate things. It all depends how you use it.

-- One thing that's been an issue since cells became popular in the late 90's and hasn't gone away - people leaving their ringers on during davening. I keep my phone on silent all day; I don't see why others can't do the same. And just do without the shticky, annoying ringtones. If I wanna hear your music, gimme an iPod.

At 10/25/2006 7:48 AM, Blogger Warren Burstein said...

Tell me, when the gedolim go out shopping, oh wait, they have someone do that for them. When the bus is late, nope they have a driver.

How about when the car is stuck in traffic. Does the driver have a cellphone?

At 10/25/2006 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle, who do u think u r accusing Lkwd bachurim of looking at porn? they r in yeshiva all day!

At 10/25/2006 9:44 AM, Anonymous debbie said...

Good #4 -- if you're running late you can call and tell the person you're going to meet.

While it's good to know that your friend is just running late and hasn't been run over by a bus, it's actually a bad because it allows people to feel like it's acceptable to be running late instead of being ashamed of it.

At 10/25/2006 9:45 AM, Anonymous debbie said...

Oops, I meant #3.

At 10/26/2006 10:08 AM, Blogger schnitzelfritz said...

okay, so cell phones can be good or evil. what about regular house phones? you've never had calls asking for money, wrong numbers leaving inappropriate messages, interrupted family dinner for a call that "might be important," or friends calling five times a day because they have no life and can't understand that you do?

speaking as a stay at home mother of one and a homemaker, i resent the fact that people think i have nothing to do. i have a child to attend to and an apartment that needs cleaning, and people call me all day long. i ignore the phone most of the time, but they leave multiple messages expecting me to call back. telephone etiquette should extend to who you call and when, and cell phones should be used only when you know the person you're calling can talk to you. i think it is worthy to note that phone calls should be made to maintain friendships, not to uproot them. there are times i'm so sick of hearing from some people.

in MY humble Jewish opinion, yentas should not be allowed phones of any kind, be it cell, portable, with a cord, or two cups on a string.

At 10/26/2006 1:52 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Anon... Sure they are..every single one of them is a total Tzadik totally engrossed in learning every waking second....

At 10/26/2006 6:26 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

I also just wrote something about cellphones..

well I think if Darwin was right..within a generation or 2 we will be born with those bluietooth things on our ears...

At 10/26/2006 9:01 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

schnitzel--you're right
There was a kid who called me every single day for a while. I turned her down in every which way I could...it was hellish.
And Yentas? See my piece on THEM! Certainly they don't need phones, but they know how to get info--trust me.
As for people thinking you have nothing to do--I've thought about writing a piece about this..now i just might.
Excellent points.

At 10/26/2006 9:20 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


Don't forget, if you use them at the gas station you can catch on fire!

The whole anti-cell phone deal is as silly as anything else the ghetto police try to institutionalize.

"Emergency situations: hardly happens. Maybe .001% of the time."

I can't believe somebody actually said that.

At 10/27/2006 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There was a kid who called me every single day for a while. I turned her down in every which way I could...it was hellish"

Michelle you are lucky it was a her, LOL... One boy overheard me saying my cellphone number in the store, and now they dont stop bothering me...

At 10/28/2006 5:42 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

anon #1-get with the times
anon #2--I guess you're right:-)

At 10/29/2006 10:09 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i dont have a cell phone and dont plan on getting one, and i get by just fine..
i think cell phones are seriously a weapon of mass destruction, everyone is on call 24/7.. the more you remove boundaries, limits, privacy.. the more poele become selfish and self absorbed..
i beleive.

At 10/29/2006 5:55 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Hmm. Interesting.
Cuz today, I was at the manicurist, and a lady who was getting a manicure was talking LOUDLY all about how she might have insulted someone....
Can't you call her back later?

At 10/30/2006 9:33 AM, Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

Great post!!!!! I agree with you 1000%

At 10/30/2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cellphones are part of life get used to it

At 10/30/2006 10:27 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...


At 10/30/2006 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever came out & banned cell phones for the community as a whole? I know that in the Mir in Israel, cell phones with internet access were banned a while ago, & they recently just asked the boys not to have regular cell phones too, because it was causing too much bitul Torah. When they made this announcement, they also installed more phones in the yeshiva, so the boys would have a way of contacting their families without cell phones. It may not be as convenient as a cell phone, but it's a compromise. And BTW, I've been told that a lot of the boys did return their cell phones. The cell phone companies were very impressed when they asked why they were returning their phones & were told that it was because R' Finkel said to.

At 10/30/2006 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We just convinced my 90+ year-old k"ah grandmother in Florida to get a cell phone. She still drives and we are worried about her safety. About a year ago, she was driving on her own and had a flat tire. There were no pay phones anywhere on the side of the highway and she sat alone until it was way after dark...
Another comment-- I was once having a manicure (in Flatbush) and two women I sat near were complaining about how it's not right that people don't answer their cell phones. One of the whiny women said, "I get really annoyed if I call someone on their cell phone and they don't answer and I know they aren't at work."
Well, maybe the person you are trying to call isn't able to get to his/her phone or is in a place that is innapropriate to take a call....Stop being so egocentric and think that maybe that person has something else to do but to listen to you kvetch or hear about the bargain you just purchased.

At 10/31/2006 9:19 AM, Blogger schnitzelfritz said...

hey, ms, you finally convinced grandma to get a cell phone? congrats! kudos to whoever it was who convinced her. (i'm surprised she can't change a tire on her own, though. your grandma can do ANYTHING.)

At 11/02/2006 1:43 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

"The cell phone companies were very impressed when they asked why they were returning their phones & were told that it was because R' Finkel said to."

Why is that impressive?

At 11/19/2006 3:04 PM, Anonymous Heshy said...

Cell phones are the devil but not because of backward "frummer than thou" arguements. Cell phones are just addictive and a nuisance, cell phones on the trail, cell phones in the movie theater, cell phones during a concert, people cant seem to shut the darned things off and it pisses me off but there seems to be a total ignorance of ettiquette when it comes to cell phone usage- CHILUL HASHEM if you ask me


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