A man uses a cell phone while driving in Burbank, California in this file photo. California has a new law which goes into effect July 1 that requires drivers to use a hands-free device while talking on cell phones while driving or face a fine. REUTERS

I fully understand the usefulness and convenience of mobile phones. They’re easy-to-use, compact enough to hold in one’s hand, and are a Godsend during emergencies. Plus, they have liberated us from those old, clunky landlines (which are now dinosaurs).

However, our society – actually, the entire planet – has been inundated with these pesky little technological miracles, and they have become a nuisance.

It’s not just cellphones, but also Blackberrys, smartphones and myriad other communication products that have infiltrated (saturated) modern daily life and threatens to dramatically change the way we speak to one other (or, not speak to each other).

I live in New York City, but I think this phenomenon is applicable almost everywhere: walk down any street and what do you see? Many, perhaps most, people chattering on cellphones, or sending text messages or monitoring the web.

Once, I saw a young man and woman (presumably a married couple) stroll down the street – both were speaking to other people on their respective cellphones during the several blocks I followed them. And I wondered, who are they talking to that could be more important than actually speaking to your significant other who happens to be right next to you?

Another time I witnessed a woman at the airport, speaking on her mobile phone. When the airport custom officers requested that she had to temporarily hand over her phone unit before going through the security x-ray machine, she looked as if they demanded her first-born. After they gave her back the phone, she looked happier than a child on Christmas morn.

Then there was the infamous case a few years ago of a young woman who wouldn’t stop yammering on her cellphone – while robbing a bank.
It has become an addiction -- one that is harming the quality and sanity of our lives. Some people would rather lose their limbs than their cellphones or blackberrys.

(Of course, in some tragic cases, this obsession with chatting and texting has had deadly consequences (i.e., auto drivers who carelessly kill pedestrians because they’re distracted by their cellphones).

I have to wonder: Are all these “conversations” really necessary? Are they all calling 911 because they witnessed a crime? Are they all physicians being summoned for emergency surgery? Are they all having profound dialogues about God and mankind?

As of June 2010, the U.S. had a 93.0 percent penetration rate (it will soon be 100 percent). Rates around the globe are ever-rising.

Within a generation (perhaps sooner), every man, woman and child on the planet will have a cellphone.

Is this really “progress” and “advancement”?

The geniuses of technology have made it easier for us to communicate with each other – but they haven’t found any way to make us smarter, cleverer or more creative.

Full disclosure: I’ve had a cellphone for the past seven years and everyone I know has one (although I don’t have a blackberry nor a Smartphone and have no desire for one). I use my cellphone primarily to send text messages (in private) and I almost never speak on it in public

Yes, I also have a personal computer (like the one I’m on now) and I think the internet is fun and useful (although I try not to spend excessive time on it).

Last Christmas, as a gift I received something called a “Nook.” I think you can download books on it, but I’m not sure, since I haven’t bothered to hook it up yet. I enjoy reading, but I’d rather hold an actual book in my hands – you know, those things with pages and jackets?