Janie B. Cheaney: “Reach out and touch someone” | WORLD
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Janie B. Cheaney: “Reach out and touch someone”


WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney: “Reach out and touch someone”

The 1980s AT&T slogan might help a marriages harmed by phone snubbing


MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 9th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next…WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on news that cell phone use may be harming marriages.

JANIE CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: Imagine you’re trying to talk to someone: a relative or friend, or just an acquaintance. There’s something you need to say, but she’s carrying on a second conversation, a far more compelling one to judge by the way she stabs and swipes the small flat object on her palm. If she’s listening to you at all, it’s with half an ear. 

If that sounds familiar, you know what it’s like to be “phubbed.”

Phubbing is the unlovely portmanteau for “phone snubbing,” or ignoring the person a few feet away so you can focus on someone or something in cyberspace. I experienced the above scenario after a Sunday morning church service while I was trying to informally counsel a woman whose husband had walked out on her. The other woman started texting while I spoke, and the drama of that give and take was just too tempting to her. To me, it was irritating beyond words.

Phubbing—the behavior—has been around for decades, but I’d never heard the word until several studies revealed it was harming marriages. Imagine that! Headlines proclaimed “The Insidious Habit that Can Hurt Your Relationship” and informed us that “Tech Addiction Doesn’t Only Hurt the Young.” We’ve all heard how Tik Tok and Instagram are warping teenage worldviews and relationships, but what about grownups who should know better?

I didn’t get a smart phone until last year, and then it was only because we were moving and I wasn’t sure when we would get our internet connection. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m not glued to it; sometimes I inadvertently leave the house without it and manage not to panic. Sometimes I deliberately keep my hands off while sitting in a waiting room or at the DMV. Sometimes. But it calls to me, especially in the small still morning hours when I should be talking to God, not scrolling the latest news and scuttlebutt. 

What are we getting from that hunk of silicon and circuitry? Valuable information, for sure, like the phone number of your dentist and what’s playing at the local cinema. Some good reading, too, if you can train your mind to pay attention to it—but there’s the rub. More than any other invention in world history, the mobile phone caters to our innate restlessness. We’re born unsettled, into a world that doesn’t know what to do with us because we don’t know what to do with ourselves. It’s a consequence of sin, of seeking satisfaction in everything except our Maker. Every Christian knows this disease, but we don’t always recognize the symptoms. One symptom is to continually wonder what we’re missing instead of paying attention to where we are.

Back in the day when a phone was just a phone, AT&T came up with a brilliant advertising slogan: “Reach out and touch someone.” If you find yourself instinctively reaching for a hand-held device instead of a hand, you might want to reconsider.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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