It has happened many times to me lately. I am talking to one of the friars, my brother, and suddenly the conversation comes to a dead end. The mobile phone has taken priority over our brotherly conversation.
Mobile phones have become ubiquitous. They enter everywhere, even where they shouldn’t be. They interrupt conversations. A person who is far away takes precedence over me who is standing right in front of my brother. What is more, my brother then wanders over to seek some privacy for his conversation. He doesn’t want me to know what he is saying and to whom he is talking. This leaves me with no alternative but to go away and perhaps try another time. Or just forget it.
The mobile phone is an intruder, a nasty intruder into the life of many people. You see them tapping at the phones sending messages or talking to someone, apart from their group. The mobile phone has especially taken over the lives of many young people, and they can’t live without it. The face to face contact has become less important than the call from the mobile phone. The person who is facing them is left stranded. Some people accept this because they themselves do it to others. I don’t. It was always a question of etiquette. You don’t interrupt a conversation between two people. You wait your turn. The mobile phone doesn’t do this because it has no etiquette. That is something human. So actually it is de-humanizing our day to day contacts. Sometimes you see two lovers, both near each other physically but far away talking on their separate phones.
This phenomenon is very disturbing. There should be some kind of rules as to when and how to interrupt a conversation. When mobile phones were not around, there were rules for disturbing a chat between two or more persons. It had to be something urgent and very important to interrupt, not just the need to talk to someone, anyone in fact. When people have nothing to do they pick up the mobile phone and call anyone, just to do something. Now that is disturbing, and very annoying.
Mobile phones have got into the life of our religious communities as well. To some they have become more of a brother than the other religious in the convent. They have friends who call every day. Some have a schedule to call their friends at certain times of the day. Messages galore, be it in the chapel or in the dining room. These contacts have become an indispensable part of daily living.
Mobile phones in religious communities should be private only. They should not be in common places. You use it in your room and nowhere else. If we do not have strict rules for this, we will have many intruders disrupting our conversations and our prayers. My mobile phone is not my brother. It is a tool which I only use for emergencies and important appointments. Otherwise it stays in my room where it will not disturb my life with my brothers.