Mobile technology has made us into an incredibly connected society. Whether on the train, on your morning run, in bed or in the shower, your friends can now suddenly call, text or even video-chat you out of the blue. They now have the power to talk to you about some inconsequential event that is really only wasting your time, but you’re far too polite to tell them that so outright. Furthermore, you now have no excuse for missing that school- or work-related email, even though you were 400 miles away at your grandmother’s funeral. Seriously, who turns their phone off at a funeral? Get with the times, dude.
Nikhom Thephakaysone boarded a train in San Francisco Sept. 23 like thousands of other commuters that day. Unlike the rest of the passengers, he was holding a gun. Surveillance videos show Thephakaysone revealing the gun and raising it into the air several times. The videos also show that no passengers reacted to his movements, oblivious to their surroundings because they were absorbed in various mobile devices. Soon after, Thephakaysone shot and killed Justin Valdez, a student at San Francisco State University, as he exited the train. It’s instances like this that reveal how dangerous it is to be too involved with a mobile device in public and why it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Inattentiveness near streets and on busy sidewalks is a major hazard. Even if you have the right of way crossing a street, you need to realize that drivers can break the rules. They could text and drive, they could run red lights, or you could even wind up in their blind spot. Wham. Even off the street, if you are looking down at your phone and not looking where you’re going, you can’t be focused on where you are walking. Maybe that manhole near your residence hall turns out to be uncovered today, but you were too busy texting your BFF to realize until you were seven feet below street level. Oops.
Furthermore, you’re probably not paying much attention to the people around you while texting. This gives others the perfect opportunity to sneak up and steal a phone right from your hands or physically attack you. With the recent rise in phone thefts on campus, it’s imperative for you to be aware of everyone around you. Plus, if you make yourself vulnerable to theft or attack by not paying attention, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to provide accurate information for a police report — such as a physical description of the suspect, what the person was wearing, or what direction he or she came from — making it difficult for police to solve the crime. If you really find the need to use your phone, step into a public building where you will feel safe using your phone and don’t need to be focused on what’s happening around you, or at least stop walking.
Aside from the potential dangerous situations that can arise from being distracted by your phone, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health revealed that people in their early 20s who have a high rate of overusing cell phones often experience stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression. You shouldn’t let your phone interfere with your physical or mental well-being.
Noted wise man and baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” In this era of constant smartphone use, the quote is more relevant than ever. It may be a cliche to say that you ought to stop and smell the roses, but when you bury your face in your smartphone, obsessing over your friends’ lives on social media or reading the latest depressing news out of the Middle East or whatever, you’re missing out on the physical beauty of what’s around you. You’re also missing out on all the little things happening in your neighborhood. Are there new businesses opening? Is there a demonstration or protest taking place? Is there a new vendor at the local farmers’ market? You don’t need social media to find these things out.
We’re bombarded by technology every minute of the day, and we shouldn’t let it interfere with our safety or well-being. There is a time and place to use your phone. It’s rare that anyone has time to be alone with their thoughts these days, so ditch the phone while you’re commuting, whether it be via train, bus or walking, and use this time to be disconnected from technology and aware of the physical world.