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Our Opinion: It's past time to put down our cellphones

Is there really any argument we spend too much time on our cellphones?

Yet there are still far too many of us—young and old—who can't, or won't, take a break from phones or other electronic devices long enough to decompress. It's getting to be beyond just being a mere distraction, it's becoming an addiction.

Which makes motivational speaker Joe Beckman's presentations last week in the Brainerd lakes area not only refreshing, but also kind of urgent in their message.

Beckman wants people—students, teachers, parents—to put down their phones and engage with one another.

"We have stopped connecting as humans. We see it everywhere. We are constantly on our screens," the Pineandlakes Echo Journal reported Beckman said Monday night at a community event in the Pequot Lakes High School auditorium. "The problem is, what we know at the end of the day is human connection matters. We need it. We need it as students as well as adults."

Sounds like a novel idea, right? And while we're sure most people would agree Beckman is correct in his assessment, we also realize fewer would actually do something to address it.

Maybe a few years ago we could joke about people spending more time on their phones than talking with each other in social settings, but it's not really funny any more. It's sad. It's affecting more areas of our lives and we're all guilty of it from time to time.

Yes, cellphones and other electronic devices are, and will continue to be, an important part of our lives. But they don't have to become paramount in our lives. Personal interaction still matters, maybe more than we thought. Beckman noted an increase in society of anxiety, depression, suicide, bullying and mental health issues since 2007—the year the first iPhone was introduced.

We are different people when we engage with each other in person instead of through our electronic devices. We have a propensity to be more empathetic, thoughtful and respectful when communicating face to face with someone. That is something we should all strive to regain in our lives, even if it means re-teaching it to our children.

While we are on the subject, we fully support and hope Gov. Tim Walz signs into law legislation making its way through the Minnesota Legislature that would crack down on the use of cellphones while driving.

The law would go beyond just texting and driving, which is already illegal. It would prohibit any use of a cellphone outside of hands-free mode. This is all about safety on our roads.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reported that between 2013 and 2017 distracted driving contributed to one in five crashes in the state. On average, 53 people were killed each year as a result. Minnesota law enforcement ticketed 9,545 for texting and driving in 2018, up from 7,357 a year prior. And one person has died in a cellphone-related distracted driving case in the state in 2019.

As the statistics show, it really can be a life and death matter when it comes to using a phone while driving. This should be a bipartisan no-brainer of a law to get passed. The bottom line is put away your phone when you get into a vehicle to drive.

Our lives, in all facets, have enough distractions without adding more. We should all make a concerted effort to shut down, unplug and logoff and actually talk—and listen—to our friends, family or co-workers. It might do us a lot of good to once in a while let that screen fade to black.

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