“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein

After weeks of Christmas prep, school functions and charity projects, I scheduled a little “me” time late one afternoon and snuck out for a quick mani/pedi.

Armed with my cellphone, I looked forward to a full hour plus of Words with Friends, reading email and replying to day(s) old texts and Facebook messages. As I surrendered my hands to the angel before me, I had an experience that stopped me in my technological tracks. Another escapee, in full wet-nail mode, took an incoming call on her cellphone and proceeded to have a personal conversation … via speaker phone!

I listened to her chat with her hubby about whether she had picked up the raspberries and where they should meet to exchange cars, among other things. No shame or whispering that she would call back in a few minutes. They had an entire conversation, complete with irritated voices, and never a mention that he was conversing in front of an audience.

Upon reflection, I feel compelled to throw the tiniest of pebbles from my little glass house by proclaiming that I do believe cellphones and iPods are adding tremendous stress to our lives, destroying manners and short-circuiting the properly developed social skills of children at tender, young ages.

Look around any public place, from waiting rooms to restaurants, and you will be hard-pressed not to see most everyone with some sort of handheld electronic device. Instead of talking to one another, the world has become programmed to expect, demand even, instant gratification, often mistaking immediate electronic feedback for true connection and authentic relationships.

For many, this begins well before basic social skills and manners have been age-appropriately and fully developed.

Consequently, the unfiltered thoughts and knee-jerk reactions of children and adults can and do go far beyond what is typical of face-to-face interactions, often wounding, leaving scars and causing social repercussions that are sometimes irreparable.

As the mother of one teenage son and twin “tweenage” girls, the introduction of cellphones and iPods – which are thinly veiled iPhones when connected to Wi-Fi – into our household has added a heaping dose of drama and nearly driven me crazy.

Though these devices do entertain and make communication a breeze, I find myself in an almost constant policy-making position; policing, paring down usage and eventual docking times and locations almost daily.

In the midst of this madness, I’ve discovered that when infractions occur which result in the loss of electronic privileges, my children (after a period of withdrawal) become softer, nicer human beings who actually play and interface the good, old-fashioned way. Imagine that? I now find myself actually looking for reasons to take them away and, at times, I think they are as relieved as I am.

I must confess that what began as an attachment to my cellphone has blossomed into a full-blown love/hate relationship, causing me to evaluate even my own behavior. I am striving to walk the talk, however, and have begun to set firm boundaries about when I will and won’t let the demands of the outside world into my present personal time and relationships. Though I am a work in progress, the results continue to be eye-opening and have convinced me that we should all try a little harder to keep technology in its proper place.

If we strive to power down our electronic addictions, humanity just may prevail.