Today is a good friend’s birthday. She came over to receive a gift from Lucia: a foot massage. This friend returned last week from a silent retreat in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. It was her second such retreat in two years and she loved it.

Cell Phones: Who’s in Charge?

Her only complaint was the cell phones. Even though it was made clear at the beginning of the retreat that cell phones were to be turned off in the meditation hall, as soon as people left the hall their mobile phones came on and they checked for messages and started texting. This strikes me as being addictive behaviour. Our friend’s roommate for the retreat was making calls throughout their so-called time of silence.

What Has Happened to Us?

This was much worse than it had been the year before. Is this a worldwide trend? Are we more plugged in than ever before? Do we need to be? Is there a delusional feeling of self importance in being available at all times? Do we need to be?

Do We Really Need Mobile Phones?

I don’t own a mobile phone. I never have. I don’t see the point. This same friend of ours has people ask, “Did you receive my text?” She hasn’t responded and there is an expectation that you must respond (soon)? Must you?

Emails are Similar and Come With Expectations

There is so much spam today that many are becoming disillusioned with even the thought of opening their inbox. A friend sent an email yesterday asking me to be part of a group exchanging recipes. I don’t cook, thriving on raw food. I don’t need any more recipes. I ignored the email. The intention behind it was good. The medium leaves something to be desired.

Is There Quality of Relationship in Our Cyber-Communication?

Do we need to be instantly available for others? I thoroughly enjoy computer-free Sundays. I’m considering extending them to computer-free weekends once my current Saturday work in the library finishes. You could call these cyber-free days since I don’t use technology on these days save for the occasional phone call. I write by hand, work in the garden, enjoy long walks with Lucia and play games (of the old sort like backgammon) with our daughter. Perhaps you too should consider cyber-free days. You might just rediscover something beautiful about the way we used to live. I’m not suggesting we move backwards. I am suggesting we re-examine our behaviour and ask a simple question, “Who’s in charge, us or technology?” the next time we reach for the mobile phone.

You may wish to read my earlier post: How Many Cell Phones is a Gorilla Worth?

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John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.