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Sacrificing the present to keep up with future

I admit it. I am intrigued with many of today's technological advances, and I do appreciate the ease that these advances sometimes bring to my life. I am pretty "with it" with my ability to text on my QWERTY board, and I love that when I travel alone, I have the capability to make an emergency call ASAP. It is a comfort to know that I am just a quick buzz away from my family members.

But, while watching one of my favorite TV shows, I was treated to an advertisement for the wonderful world of teeny, tiny movies that can be seen on your cellphone. I wondered: How smart is that?

The announcer was touting the advantages of being able to take the visual delight anywhere you wanted. Restaurants, schools, friends' houses were shown in the background. Meanwhile, an avid viewer sat, totally absorbed in a fictional plot, oblivious to the real-life joys or responsibilities all around him. It was crazy.

I am a child of the '60s, when the touting was about the advantages of seeing pictures on a big screen in a crowd. We were treated to larger-than-life-sized actors and actresses appearing on a huge screen that an entire audience could share. We were witnessing colossal pictures like "Ben Hur" or the crazy antics of Jerry Lewis prominently displayed in giant frames. The bigger the better, back then.

But, even more to the point, was the concept that movies were entertainment for all -- social events that assumed each person in attendance was on the same frame, so to speak. You couldn't take one of those huge reels of film to a party with you to watch by yourself. Isn't it ironic? Big screen TVs are the rage now for our little houses and tiny movies are the latest when you're out in a crowd.

These cellphone-generated distractions are causing a tremendous amount of strain on our human relations, as well as our eyes. I think we are losing the essence of "mindful" living when we can't manage one evening of conversation without pulling out our cellphones.

We are entering an era of anti-social behavior, ushered in by our fascination with electronics and technology. These advancements are actually breaking down face-to-face communication. The joy of present-moment living is being compromised by people attached to their cellphones, not even remotely aware of the person sitting next to them. We are sacrificing valuable parts of the present trying to keep up with the future.

The cellphone debacle doesn't end with minuscule movie access, either. The fine art of conversation, to say nothing of grammar, spelling and punctuation, is being abandoned by the texting generation. I find it offensive when a dinner partner answers a call or texts while in my company. Doesn't this person value my time? Resentments can build, blocks go up between people and the gap widens.

Real life is happening all around us, and yet, we choose to text, test tiny TVs and chat on cellphones to the exclusion of those sitting right next to us. We miss out by not living more consciously. We replace present-tense experiences with "chatter" or, worse yet, complete neglect, as we watch minuscule movies moving across a 2-inch screen.

I am in awe of technology, it is true. The benefits are many. But there is one very useful concept we might want to adopt -- everything in moderation. Living mindfully, with good manners, too, will do much to elevate our society.

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Nancy Jo Eckerson, of Akron, is the Town of Newstead, Village of Akron historian.

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