Cell phones probably aren't ruining us, but worrying about them is a good thing to do.
Here's an article from FastCompany chastising Apple for a recent ad they made.
From the article:"In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on."
Where I agree with this article is at its core. We're definitely seeing more times and experiences getting overtaken my these devices. Apple, in doing a perfectly reasonable thing for their business, is either intentionally or unintentionally "consecrating the behavior". That makes me a little uneasy too. All of this technology is still new, and we're still working on developing social etiquette around it. We don't have a "normal" or an "appropriate" established yet, and it's not helping to have Apple tell us that it's normal to have their products in bed with us and our cute children.
But, in Apple's (maybe I mean "in American culture's") defense, cell phones, which are very sophisticated tools, still spend most of their time in pockets, because most people are still just using them as tools. The ability to easily and quickly catalog beautiful things and wonderful moments in our lives is one of the most amazing things that cell phone cameras have done for us, and because this is an ad for those products, it makes sense to show videos of people using Apple products during those moments.
It can, of course, be a problem when the ability to catalog becomes a compulsion to catalog, or when it interferes with a person's actual participation in reality. I'm sure there are thousands of hours of home camcorder footage of someone saying "put the camera down". I think this is the underlying fear informing this article's disparaging message. It doesn't trust anyone to not be the person viewing the world filtered through the pinhole lens of a device. It's incredibly frustrating to watch the people around you uploading their presences to the internet, but most of the people I know are still good at being people, and setting good boundaries, so I'm not inherently afraid of people using their silly little cameras to snap a shot of some trifle they wish their siblings could see. I'll speak up only when I worry about them failing to experience where they are.
So, it is okay to act like the people in these ads sometimes - to have these products present in our most beautiful moments - but only when they disappear into the number of times that we are too distracted by our experiences to think about cataloging them.