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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014

Do I Tell?

Posted Wednesday, October 28, 2009, at 1:56 PM

A few weeks ago I found a voice mail from my cable company telling me that services would be interrupted from midnight until 3 a.m. for repairs and updates.

Since I rarely watch television at that time of night, I erased the message and quickly forgot about it.

Two weeks later saw me finally in the house at a decent hour and watching television before bedtime. The telephone rang and I wrestled with whether or not to get out of my comfortable chair and answer the call. Then, shockingly, the television screen revealed a box towards the bottom of the screen that included caller id for the telephone.

It freaked me out! I love technology even though I am somewhat impaired by all the modern opportunities it gives. I had no idea that my "package" of services from the same company might include a cross application of services. I can now decide whether or not to answer the phone without ever getting up.

And thus begins my ethical dilemma.

It's one thing to have caller id on your telephone where you at least have to get up and look at the screen on your phone. It's another thing to have it on the screen of your television.

I must admit that I usually answered every phone call that comes my way. Even with caller id on my telephone, I figure that I've gone to the trouble to get to the phone in time and that I might as well answer it. Caller id has given me the courage to answer the phone in some amusing ways, depending upon who might be calling. I give into temptation when I find the caller to be some telemarketer in California. I'll answer with strange accents or create bazaar narratives. And pity the poor telemarketer when they ask for "Mrs. Wilson" (I'm a bachelor); I'll break into this song and dance about how I don't know where she is, she's taken the children, and little Robert needs his medication NOW!

I've literally had telemarketers hang up in tears...

However, this caller id on television has changed my response to answering the telephone. If I'm really interested in the program I no longer hit the pause button; I just let the voice mail pick up on someone that I don't prioritize as important enough to answer. If I'm particularly sleepy or lazy I'll make a mental note that I need to call "Charlie" tomorrow. And if it is some telemarketer I don't even bother with the decision; I just get impatient that the caller id box is blocking some of my program. Come to think of it, since this caller id box on my television screen has appeared, I don't think I've gotten up and answered the telephone once!

Community is very important to all of us, even the community we experience over the telephone. Technology is a wonderful thing but it consistently allows us to block out community and even separate from it to stay in our own little world. Think of how many hours you or your children spend in front of a screen. And whether it's a television screen, a computer screen, or an electronic game of some sort, every hour spent absorbed in "that world" keeps us from being in community with people who support us, challenge us, and revitalize us.

Do I tell others that I often times choose a technological lifestyle over interacting with other human beings? Do I tell myself that it is acceptable to isolate myself from interacting with other human beings because I have the technology to do so?

Such a small thing, this caller id on my television screen.

Such a large impact on my life, this caller id and other technological advances.

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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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