Are cellphones evil devices that stunt our humanity and ruin society, or … Actually, that’s pretty much the only choice, according to most Globe and Mail readers who commented on a Hot Button post this week about an American comedian’s full-frontal assault on the devices that control our lives.
“Cellphones should be banned from restaurants. Cellphones should be banned from airplanes,” one wrote. “It is surprising how little manners people have.”
“What I see is a completely distracted mass of humanity,” another concerned reader wrote.
The outpouring was sparked by a viral video of comedian Louis C.K. telling a late-night TV host that cellphones prevent children from learning empathy by eliminating human contact, and are distractions to avoid feeling sad and lonely. They are creating, he argued, a world of emotionally stunted people who “never feel completely sad or completely happy.”
The blog post on globeandmail.com focused on one of the few rebuttals to Mr. C.K.’s viral sermon: A Slate piece argued that there is no scientific evidence linking cellphone use to problems with children’s emotional development, and that humans have been distracting themselves from the yawning caverns of their existential doom for centuries, often with books.
Commenters, however, were generally concerned about the impact of cellphones and agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. C.K. (“He’s a contemporary Mark Twain,” one commenter wrote.)
Cellphone users “seem incapable of spending a few minutes to themselves without interacting with someone,” another wrote.
Another reader warned cellphone addicts that time spent tweeting, texting, checking e-mail and updating Facebook “is time you were largely clued out to whatever was going on around you, be it so mundane as fellow passersby, a cool cloud formation, a flock of birds, a traffic incident, a new store, fresh bloomed flowers … i.e. the world in general.”
A few were particularly offended that the Slate writer equated books and cellphones. “The reader is alone with his thoughts and whatever the book content portrays for him, that he imagines in his head. … Not the same thing as being unable to stop communicating meaninglessly with someone constantly and spend some quiet time in reflection by oneself.”
Some readers were even moved to quote poetry in their defence of books, including this from Emily Dickinson: “There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away.”