Technology Series, Question 1
Edited by Aryeh Werth
Is It Proper Now To Own A Smartphone?
Smartphones provide a unique opportunity to engage with the world in a whole new way. Having access to Tehillim, shiurim, and even Daf Yomi, among other things, enables one to learn on the go. I have on many occasions made use of my smartphone for learning while on a train, plane or even standing in a line somewhere. Moreover, it lends itself to many things that enables one to multitask, thus saving a lot of time.
However, like a double-edged sword, smartphones can also provide instant access to many undesirable things as well. Like nuclear power that can either light up a city or wreak havoc, it all comes down to how one utilizes a smartphone. Should we devise methods by which to ensure we don’t get ensnared into the potential risks? Sure. Should kids be restricted? Certainly. Can it be morally dangerous? Absolutely! But so could many other things. Self-control is a concept no one seems to advocate anymore. Needless to say if one feels they are at risk because of the vast exposure then there are options, including filters, that should certainly be used.
On balance, everything as it exists, a smartphone can be utilized as a tool for meaningful purpose in keeping with the concluding Mishna of Pirkei Avos: “Everything was created in order to enhance Hashem’s glory.”
– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue
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I consider this one of the most pressing ideological and personal development questions of our generation.
There’s no question that the smartphone has become a major distraction and time waster for all of us. Anyone who has a smartphone would be hard pressed to deny that it gobbles up hours of time, even assuming one has a filter, and even assuming one doesn’t use it for anything inappropriate.
I often have said I should get rid of mine, and for a long time I wouldn’t turn on my phone until noon. All of us would do well to block out large amounts of time that we don’t have access to our smartphone. The amount of sheer wasted time is beyond description. We would all be so much more effective in our personal development, learning, and at work without the constant distraction. We have to be wise to the danger of incessant distraction caused by smartphones and we must have a system to make sure we have time away from it.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).
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Each of us has the right and responsibility to make decisions that affect our lives. When we face change – technological or otherwise – we need to be able to evaluate the positives and negatives and then decide what’s best for us.
Smartphones are incredibly useful in so many ways. They are amazingly helpful in maintaining quick and easy communications. They provide instant information on the weather and the news. The apps make it easy for us to drive without getting lost; to order an Uber driver or a pizza; and so many other features that simplify our lives.
Yes, it’s possible to over-use or misuse a smartphone. But that is true of many things. The question isn’t whether it’s proper to own a smartphone; the question is: are we responsible enough to use smartphones wisely?
If you wonder whether or not you should own a smartphone, ask for advice from others who do own one. Find out if this device is something that will enhance your life or be a waste of money. Then make your own decision. Whatever you decide is not final; you can re-evaluate as time goes on and as circumstances change.
Think clearly. Make your own decision. Adjust your decision if and when needed.
– Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals