Amid the various complex and – at times – startling cases discussed in today’s daf (Yevamot 54a), Rav Ashi teaches us about the difference between dozing and sleeping:
‘Dozing is when someone is asleep but not completely asleep, and awake but not completely awake (נים ולא נים תיר ולא תיר). For example, if someone asks a question of someone who is dozing, they are able to respond but are unable to provide a response that requires intellectual reasoning. Still, if someone who is dozing is reminded of a fact, they are generally able to respond [and confirm the fact with a yes or no which they have been reminded of].’
Reflecting on this statement, as well as the research I have done on smartphone use and its impact on social interactions, I wonder the following: Are there times when we are physically awake but are socially dozing? And are there times – of course not only when we are distracted with our smartphones – when we are able to respond to the questions that others ask us, but we are unable to provide a response that requires intellectual reasoning?
While our Gemara discusses the significance of actions performed when someone is dozing in terms of the laws of yibum, I believe it also provides a powerful opportunity for us to consider how often we are – in one sense or another – dozing, and it should push us to reflect upon whether we are aware of the significance of our actions when we do so.
For example, when a friend or family member tells you something that is important to them to you, and you are ‘digitally dozing’ (i.e. you hear what they say and respond in part but you are also distracted by a digital device), are you aware of the impact this can have on the friend or family member? Of course, it may be easy to claim that you responded to them. But if you were being truthful to yourself, you would know that you were in a social state of נים ולא נים תיר ולא תיר.
Most of us, if asked, would likely proudly say that they don’t wish to doze through life. However, we all too often do so because we are digitally dozing. And just as we learn that there are consequences of actions performed when dozing, there are also consequences of our actions when we are unable to fully respond to the conversations and questions of others because we are in a state of נים ולא נים תיר ולא תיר.
Yes, we are all bombarded by messages. And yes, many of us rely on our digital devices for our work and social life. But when it comes at the cost of the quality of relationships with those sitting in front of us and talking to us, then we’ve seemingly gone too far. #saynotodigitaldozing