LORD OF THE RINGTONES: Are mobile devices enslaving us?

He shut his eyes and struggled for a while; but resistance became unbearable, and at last he slowly drew out the chain, and slipped the Ring on the forefinger of his left hand.

Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

That scene from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy flashes to mind during any tedious work meeting: the hand moves inexorably toward the iPhone; the urge to check email, texts, Facebook, even favorite blogs begins to overwhelm; one enters the shadowy, virtual world of online friends and welcome strangers, ever oblivious to the surrounding real world.

Such scenes are repeated daily in boardrooms, around dinner tables, on trains, and even (gasp!) on our freeways. The ineluctable pull of mobile devices and the ubiquitous cloud of connectivity tempts us away from the task at hand, rendering us invisible—or at least unavailable—to the physical world around us.

Once you’re partway into the wraithworld, all sorts of evil spirits — like blog-comment trolls! — acquire a measure of power over you. . . .