Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What's Wrong with Texting in Shul?

Are you guilty? Do you touch your phone in shul, check for a message or play a quick level of Angry Birds or Tetris to pass the time during davening?  (I am not talking about those who touch the siddur app in their phone).

Clearly young people today feel more comfortable with technology and social interactions and their own confidence in multitasking, but what exactly is their place in Jewish holy spaces? Previously I have written and shared about technology in the spiritual realm.  But can you pinpoint what's so bad about it?

In my opinion, this is a tell tale sign that the tefilla moment is not engaging and the person is willfully or subconsciously distracted.  We want out students (and fellow daveners) to be in the prayerful moment and to use the time to reflect and transcend, right?  How can you do that, let alone in a room by oneself not to mention it a crowded shul, when the objects (read toys) around pull your focus away?

On a daily basis, I am (unfortunately) often in meetings and it is obvious to me that the people fidgeting on their phones in the meeting don't see the conversation - at that very moment - a priority enough to give fill attention and focus.  I know because when I touch my phone it is because I myself am wandering away.

Isn't that one of the nice aspects of shabbat that we have less mundane distractions?  How do we teach students to overcome the mental and physical distractions that buffer their spiritual space and to teach them to negotiate this challenge during the 'profane' hours of the week?

Two post scripts:

  1. You can read the Yeshiva World News article on the topic, Please Turn Off Your Cellphone - I love the interactions!
  2. According to the Jewish Virtual Library article Synagogue Customs and Etiquette, one of the "no-no's" is the following:  The synagogue may be one of the last remain sanctuaries to escape cell phones and beepers. They should be turned off before entering.

1 comment:

  1. I'm guilty of this... but I have a defense. When I can't achieve a peak spiritual state in davening, I try at least to achieve a moment of clarity - a perspective on how I regard the actions I take and the activities I engage in. This often yields insights or introspections that I'm afraid will be fleeting in my jumbled mind, so I grab for my phone as a quick virtual notepad. I always feel so self conscious when I do this, that someone will assume I'm checking a sports score.