I know a journalist who went to see his editor one day and the editor kept taking phone calls during their discussion. Eventually, in a brave moment brought on by a rush of blood to the head, the reporter offered to go outside and call his boss instead.
A modern, sadder and more serious version of a similar story is offered by a nun, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church, on her blog site.
She says: 'I once was waiting for a table at a restaurant and I saw a father and mother both glued to their phones while their two children desperately tried to get their attention. Eventually, the older boy sat down frustrated and said to his mother, "You always look at your phone and not at me." His mother grunted and did not look up. It occurred to me that these parents would probably miss months, possibly years of their children's lives if they continued to be enslaved to their phones.'
Sister Noble then goes on to list five 'strategies' for 'divorcing' from your smart-phone.
1. Set up purposeful blackout times: Sr Noble points out that, 'There was a time not so long ago when we picked up people at airports, met friends at events, and travelled without cell phones. So, unless you are a surgeon on call, chances are you can afford to put down or turn off your phone for an hour or so. "Blackout times" every day are a good reminder for us that we really don't need our cell phones.'
2. Enforce phone-free zones: 'Bedrooms are a good idea. Bathrooms are a no-brainer,' says Sr Noble. And eating areas are 'pretty key'. The nun suggests that you try placing a basket in the middle of your dining room table and put your phones in it when you eat with family or friends. She says that people who do use phones at the dinner table should not be judged, but that you can set a good example by not doing so yourself.
3. Delete time-sucking apps: Sr Noble has deleted her Facebook and Twitter apps from her phone. 'If there are any apps that are stealing hours of time from your life, don't hesitate, just delete them!'
4. Avoid zombie walking with your phone: While admitting that she is 'bad at this one' because she likes to look at her phone when it buzzes, Sr Noble points out that people can feel isolated when deprived of greetings in the streets by people who are glued to their devices. Being charitable to passers by is important, she says, and besides: 'It's also a safety hazard; metropolitan police forces warn of an uptick in robberies of "easy targets" who walk with their eyes on their phones instead of on their surroundings.'
5. Keep reminding yourself of your death: Finally, the big one: living with death – and eternity – in mind. 'This may seem morbid but sometimes I wonder if at the pearly gates Saint Peter is going to read off to me how many years of my life I frittered away watching TV, looking at my phone, and generally wasting my time,' she says. 'Just the thought of this convicts me to live better, at least for a while. When I think about dying regularly, not in a morbid way, it keeps me alive. So, to live more fully, think about your death!'