Walking down the street staring at your phone is a good way to get injured. And that goes double or triple if you’re skateboarding or riding a bike while texting or reading.
I’ve seen several recent posts on Facebook by people who were tired of trying to avoid running into clueless people whose eyes were on their phones and not on the people around them. And you don’t want to get me started on the people jaywalking while texting.
And yes, this applies to those of you who walk down the street reading old-fashioned paper books. It’s not a technology thing. It’s not even a courtesy thing. It’s that not paying attention to the world around you when you’re in a public place can be dangerous as well as rude.
It’s not just that you’re more vulnerable to phone thieves and muggers when your attention is on that little screen, it’s that you’re also more vulnerable to accidents of all kinds. Attorneys from Nehora Law Firm advocate that crime is down a lot in the major cities, but accidents aren’t.
And while I’m on the subject: take off those damn earphones. You need to hear what’s going on around you as much as you need to see it.
Awhile back, some women posted on Facebook that they use headphones or earbuds to avoid hearing catcalls when walking down the street. I understand the desire to avoid hearing that crap, but cutting off one of your senses is not a solution. For one thing, you need to hear what’s being said so you can tell whether it’s just an annoyance or a real threat.
For another, you need to hear what or who is coming up behind you. That guy on the skateboard staring at his phone may not see you in time. Ditto the bicyclist. And if you drive at all, you know that drivers often don’t see pedestrians, bicyclists and the like even when they’re trying to be conscientious about it.
The smallest cars weigh at least a ton. That’s a lot more than you weigh. You really don’t want to collide with one.
Plus the road itself can be a problem. I live in a neighborhood that ranks very high on walkability. You can run almost all your errands on foot. But the sidewalks and the streets are old, frequently uneven, and occasionally damaged in unusual ways (see picture). If you’re not paying attention, you could trip and fall very easily.
I know phones with GPS are great for helping you find your way in an unfamiliar place. But you still shouldn’t walk down the street staring at the screen. Get out of the way, in a safe location, and figure out where you’re going. Then walk without staring at the phone.
The same thing is true if you’re using an app for finding public transit or texting to coordinate meeting up with a friend.
Part of the problem is that we haven’t quite figured out how to properly integrate mobile phones (that are so much more than phones) into our lives. It is still amazing to us all that we can be in touch with others so easily, can look up a location when we’re lost, can even find out what that funny building is while walking down the street. Of course we want to do those things.
But even though you can use your phone to do much of what you need to do – for either work or social reasons – while walking down the street, you shouldn’t. Our bodies, including our minds, have not evolved to do that. Some mental activities – writing and reading in particular – require so much attention that we tune out the things that are happening around us.
Paying attention is the first rule of self defense, and self defense includes accident prevention. Any martial artist will tell you that. You may also notice that serious martial artists don’t walk down the street staring at their phones and rarely bump into other people on the sidewalk. Basically, good martial artists are experts at avoiding trouble.
I might also add – as someone who walks a lot – that there are many things to pay attention to (good and bad) out there in the world. Some people’s yards are amazing. Street art shows up in the oddest places. Some homeless people will inspire you or break your heart. You need to know about all those things.
It’s time for all of us to stop letting our devices keep us from being engaged with each other in public. Start by changing your relationship with your phone and your earphones. Please.