Editorial – Hang Up!

Hang up! It’s a message That’s taken off across North America lately. Distracted driving laws, like those recently introduced in Alberta, are cracking down on those who text behind the wheel?or chat without a hands-free device. Bloggers and life coaches are reminding us that failing to hang up when we pick up our kids from school sends a clear message about where our priorities lie. And governments are recommending that we reduce the time we spend with the phone glued to our ear?for the sake of our health.

There’s considerable debate over the potential physical harm caused by cellphone use, but most health organizations recommend cutting down on phone time (or at least switching to a hands-free device) to minimize the risk. At the same time, these measures can reduce the chance we’ll get distracted behind the wheel and cause injury to ourselves or others.

Minimizing physical danger is good. But It’s not the whole story: danger to bodily health has nothing on the personal, emotional, and spiritual ?illnesses? caused by the glued-to-the-smart phone phenomenon.

It’s no secret that smart phones, tablets, and the like have changed the way we communicate. we’re on call more often. We interact more, and more often?although It’s usually short and sweet (and not particularly deep)?and with people far across the world.

Ironically, the one group the communications boom hasn’t helped includes the people we see face-to-face each day.

Interacting with people?really interacting?often gets short shrift compared to the time we spend interacting in bits and spurts online or via text messaging. Phones and connectedness have invaded the home; we check Facebook before bed and respond to texts during dinner. We even prefer texting because It’s neater, cleaner, and quicker than face time, or even than a phone call.

we’re used to a fast-paced world, one in which we’re reachable almost 24-7. But let’s be honest: we’re not always available. If I’m in the shower, odds are I’ll miss a phone call and the caller will have to wait 10 minutes for me to respond. If I’m weight training, I probably won’t stop to answer a text until I’m finished.

In the same vein, the caller or sender can also wait a few minutes if I’m spending time, real, focused time, with family or friends. It’s logical. It’s necessary. But It’s not easy to do.

This Thanksgiving, let’s try turning off the phones for an hour or two. Whether we’re spending the holiday celebrating with family or friends, working, or volunteering, chances are we’ll have the opportunity to put in some face time.

Who knows? We just might rediscover the gift of in-person interaction. And That’s something we can all be thankful for.