September 23, 2018

Cellphone ‘Sins’

Photo from iStockPhoto

I’ve never liked the word “sin.” I prefer the Hebrew translation “khet,” which more or less means a mistake.

It’s time we acknowledged how much we miss the mark with the world of meaning and connection around us when we’re too immersed in our phones. This Yom Kippur, I’ll give my phone (and my heart) a gentle tap for the following khetaim. Perhaps these will resonate with you as well:

For the mistakes I have committed by not being emotionally present for my family because I was mindlessly scrolling through someone else’s family photos.

For the mistakes I have committed by not being emotionally present for a friend who truly needed to confide in me in person. It didn’t matter that I put my phone face-side down on the table. The message was still clear to my friend: You (and my phone) are so important to me.

For the mistakes I have committed by not being professionally present for my employer when he or she was clearly paying me to work, not to constantly conduct my own social affairs online.

For the mistakes I have made by being on my phone so much that I sent a message to children around me, whether my own or someone else’s, that it is OK to use technology ceaselessly and without boundaries.

For the mistakes I have made by mindlessly scrolling past a post that requested donations on behalf of someone in need, because there was a juicier post right below it from someone enduring a breakup. And a post below that showing the deliciously dysfunctional (and useless) thread of arguments between a leftist and a Trump supporter. And a post below that of a late-night TV show segment that I’d already seen on TV that week, but decided to click on, anyway. I can’t remember now what the first post about someone in need was even about, but I hope they got the help they needed.

“It’s time we acknowledged how much we miss the mark with the world of meaning and connection around us when we’re too immersed in our phones.”

For the mistakes I have committed by being so immersed in my scrolling as I walked down the street that I passed someone in need and then pretended that I didn’t even see or hear the person. Whether I looked up from my phone or not, he or she was still there. 

For the mistakes I have committed by seeing enviable social media pictures of something I felt I was lacking, and then questioning why the person was entitled so such seeming happiness when I deserve just as much, if not more. 

For the mistakes I have committed by posting only photos that depicted the top 5 percent of my life — from picture-perfect meals to picture-perfect vacation or family photos. I wish I had been more authentic with my friends and myself, and hope I didn’t cause anyone pain by highlighting some fabulous aspect of my life that, I admit, I sort of blew out of proportion.

For the mistakes I have committed by declaring my undying love for my partner via social media to celebrate his or her birthday or our anniversary, without so much a thought as to how my friends who are still searching for love would feel, and with convenient neglect of the fact that, like all relationships, mine is incredibly imperfect.

For the mistakes I have committed with incessantly posting selfies of myself at every coffee shop, restaurant, beach, park, gym, or that exotic travel destination where I was almost attacked in the head by an aggressive bird seconds after I took the selfie.

For the mistakes I have committed by irresponsibly posting an article without having actually read it first, and having shared misleading information, stoking the fire of division and online trolling, and having caused conflict between friends and family.

For the mistakes I have committed by driving while texting or checking my phone, when I should have known better. And for the mistake I’ll make by repeating such irresponsibly tomorrow.

For the mistakes I have committed by embezzling from my own very finite life by devoting myself to an inanimate device that will never replace the human-to-human love and connection that I so badly need and deserve.


Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer.