by Deborrah Uecker
Professor of Communication at Wisconsin Lutheran College and CMI Board Member

It can be said that ‘what you allow will continue’. As a professor of communication for almost 30 years I struggle with what society ‘allows’ when it comes to the use of technology, especially cell phones. I recall an evening at a very nice restaurant above Lake Michigan. The moon was shining, full, over the lake. My husband and I were enjoying the ambiance, good food and atmosphere. And though we had a gift certificate that allowed us to pamper ourselves, I savored the time with my husband. But looking over the tables of couples around us, we were just about the only ones not on our phones! Really people….what is more important than the person across from you?!

It is has become a pet peeve of mine. A championship basketball game, half of the people around me are on their phones. A high ranking administrator who is never without the phone and gives the impression that anything that potentially is on the phone is more important than the people around them at the moment. Then there are the ten to fifteen minutes before my small group communication class where the getting to know the others in the class is essential to group process, students sit down, pull out their phones and any potential getting to know you opportunity is lost.

Now granted, the couple in the restaurant may be connected to a babysitter, and basketball is often only interesting in the second half. The administrator is more significant to the welfare of those around them and being constantly connected is what can perhaps make or break an institution. But the process of perception starts by choosing what we are going to pay attention to. Studies have shown that we are not the masters of multi-tasking we think we are. The nonverbal message being sent when you have a phone in your hand and your eyes glued to the small screen, it says ‘no trespassing’! It says whatever is on Facebook or Instagram is far more interesting than engaging in the face to face conversations that connect us to each other. And frankly, it can just be rude behavior.

We have been created by God to be relational beings. A cell phone does allow for unprecedented continuous connection to others in our relationship circles. We can gather instant information about an infinite number of topics and current events around the world. Our ‘global village’ on this earth has been blessed by our God with the ability be connected with each other through cell phones, and perhaps have stronger relationships.

As I sit here in my living room watching the closing ceremony of the 2018 Olympics in Korea every athlete marching into the stadium has a cell phone. But I am going to give them a pass on cell phone use…they are certainly connecting and capturing a special moment for themselves and those back home. They have earned it!