In a 2007 interview with Arthur Boers, the philosopher Albert Borgmann makes the case that television is of moral importance. Borgmann says: “When I teach my ethics course I tell these relatively young people that the most important decision that they’ll make about their household is first whether they’re going to get a television and then second where they’re going to put it.”
I think for my generation and for the generation coming after mine, the questions could probably be amended to (a) “Are you going to get a smartphone?” and (b) “If so, what limits are you going to place on its use?”
These are questions I’m asking myself right now too. I have an iPhone. Am I going to keep it? If so, how should I limit its use? To use a science fiction metaphor, the iPhone is a kind of portal, one that can cause me to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually distant, even when I’m physically present. How often do I want to have that portal open?
Good questions from that writer. I don't own a smartphone, but I still fall prey to the temptation to use technology as a tool to isolate myself from those around me, to be present without really being present. I work in a high-rise office building and it's amazing to me the number of people I encounter in the elevator, or other public spaces, with their eyes glued to a screen. I've had to take evasive action to keep from being run into by someone walking and texting. This characteristic pose of our age -- head down, eyes averted from one's surroundings -- is making meaningful interaction, even common courtesy, a relic of the past. The portal is always open as we shuffle anonymously past one another.