By Nathan Brown, editor of the South Pacific edition of Signs of the Times and the South Pacific Division Record
By the end of 2007 there will be 3.25 billion active mobile phones in the world—enough to connect fully half of the world’s population. According to a survey by the UK-based The Mobile World, an average of 1,000 new customers around the world are signing up every minute.
We’ve never been so connected, and there are many benefits to be gained. But researchers in Australia—where an estimated 94 percent of people own a mobile phone—caution that “mobile phone addiction could be the new psychological disorder of the 21st century.”*
Clinical psychologist and family therapist Andrew Fuller suggests that for some young people being without their mobile phones “would almost be an amputation.” And he sees various physical symptoms for regular phone users: altered sleep patterns, changing dream habits, and increased risk of depression. Ironically, he also observes changing social relationships, with reduced face-to-face contact resulting in less meaningful relationships.
Shari Walsh from the Queensland University of Technology explains that time spent on the phone was not necessarily an indicator of risk. Instead, the disorder can be noticed when phone users become distressed when they are unable to use their phones. “The difficulty is that if people are addicted to the phone or to being connected and they can’t turn it off, they’re not able to give themselves the quiet time we all need,” she says.
Perhaps it’s a very contemporary reason why Sabbath is such a good thing. While more and more of us own mobile phones, we need to be reminded that they—or any of the other gadgets we might collect—don’t own us and should not control our lives.
There may be reasons we need to communicate during Sabbath hours, but Sabbath seems like a great reason to turn off our phones.
*Sam Wallis, “Mobiles Have Aussies Hooked,” Australian Broadcasting Corp. News, http://tinyurl.com/3y325c, July 14, 2007; accessed online July 19, 2007.