Even in the restaurant we come across mobile phone addicts

A column by Francis Van de Woestyne, journalist

The laptop is an ecological, civilizational and relational disaster. It is this laptop that makes us face the Mona Lisa and photograph ourselves before looking at the painting. There is no longer a cell phone-free zone: in the Vendée, where I was this summer, people keep calling even in the water! This is how the actor Fabrice Luchini expressed it in an interview with Figaro.

Is it the instrument that is the problem, or the use men and women make of it? Extensive debate. Faced with Luchini’s sharp observation, one can, for example, oppose the extraordinary mobilization of Iranian women who, at the risk of their lives, refuse the veil imposed on them by the regime. Without social networks, without mobile phones, the images of their rebellion would not have evoked such lively, generous and united responses in the four corners of the world. Iranian women film themselves and spread their desire for freedom: their mobile is an instrument of liberation.


But where Luchini is a thousand times right is when he describes the addiction that some people have developed regarding this instrument. They and they have become its slaves. So much so that the authorities in Japan are considering installing red lights on the ground for safety reasons, because pedestrians with fingers clinging to their instrument no longer raise their heads. They only look at their screen and less and less at the sky. Of course, cell phones represent significant advances in remote human contact, the applications they contain make life much easier. We are informed in real time about the smallest upheavals in the world. But all too often these devices are more often intruders than guests. IN The Free (22/11/2011), Professor of Philosophy at UCLouvain and author of the book “In the beginning is trust” (Éd. Le Bord de L’eau, 2020), Mark Hunyadi, explained: “The digital has taken over our social lives without us ever asking for our opinion. It shapes our lives, everything goes through it and we cannot live without it. In reality, it is being carried away before our eyes , what is gradually disappearing under this digital tsunami, it is not so much democracy itself (there are always institutions that say the law), but it is the fundamental values ​​on which democracy is based.”

Who draws first?

An anecdote. At the beginning of September I spent a few days in Uzès, in the Gard, in France. Magnificent city. There is a perfume of history, of nostalgia, also of peace in these alleys. The time is 1:30 p.m. The café terrace where I enjoy a glass of Rouge Garance (Jean-Louis Trintignant’s vineyard) is full. Local wines, beer, pastis, decorations on the tables, together with tomato-mozzarella, the chef’s terrine, focaccia with pepper… A telephone bell rings loudly. A frequently chosen stamp. Ten, even fifteen customers in any case, put their hand in their trouser pocket, the lapel of their jacket or throw their hand into their bag. It’s like a western: who draws the fastest? Of the people thus disturbed, only one presses the green button and starts a conversation. Calm returns. The hands pick up cutlery and glasses.

In a restaurant, it is not uncommon to see two people sitting across from each other, silent, both hands glued to their phones communicating with another person or scrolling through the pictures of a history. Cell phones have brought people together, but overused they end up driving loved ones away. Me, I dream of family meals or restaurants where these damn machines would be banned during parties. It will be argued that parents must be in constant communication with their children. Yes, the phone can save lives. Or not… But today, when we set the table, next to the knife, fork or spoon, according to these laptop junkies, it would be necessary to leave a place for the phone. Because sometimes when faced with the kind of people who are unable to put down their screen, you are speaking in a vacuum. And when you ask your “interlocutor” about what catches his attention elsewhere, he takes you for curiosity, suspicion, intrigue! Some will think that such a reflection is cocky, coming from a grumpy person, nostalgic for a time when the mobile phone did not exist. That no! These units are valuable. But there is nothing like big tables, surprise guests, friends of friends of friends gathered to discuss, change the world, talk, exchange, share. Assuming they are actually present. Let’s leave the conclusion to Michel Serres: “It’s so rare, it’s so unlikely, it’s so miraculous that it might be civilization and culture: to meet someone who listens…”

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