Sunday, September 16, 2012

Smart phones create a head down approach to life.

Riding a bike can be hazardous to your health, especially if you’re around people who are connected.

I routinely ride a bicycle for exercise in the summer along the streets and off-road trails around my neighborhood in Dearborn, Michigan. I wear safety gear to protect my head and hands, but there’s no padding to deflect drivers on cell phones or school kids walking with their heads down and locked in on smart phones.

Last week, I took a late lunch and went for my usual 45-minute ride. I go about eight miles, and I’m used to carefully crossing busy main streets. Most drivers are courteous and will stop for me even when they have the right of way. But those on phones will roll right through stop signs. Many will be on the phone and looking in one direction, preparing to turn, while continuing to move right through an intersection and blowing the stop sign. I stay on the sidewalk until I’m confident it’s safe.

I don’t normally see too many young people at lunchtime, but my late departure last week changed that. It was amazing! High school kids can walk for blocks with their heads down, eyes glued to cell phone screens as they obliviously stroll through intersections or up sidewalks. Last week, I watched a long line of kids on their way out of Dearborn High School, each one alone, many looking at devices or listening to music on ear buds. It looked like a line of drones headed home in a trance. No jovial conversations, No one living in the moment absorbed with friends and natural surroundings. Just a somber stroll back to the hive, with an electronic buzz guiding them home.

I stopped my bike for a good minute and observed some 50 kids, no one talking to the other. But half of them were on devices in virtual conversations. Their expressions were glum despite the gorgeous weather on a brilliantly sunny and mild day.

All communications technology comes with its share of hazards. But I predict today’s small-screen hyper-connectivity will produce poor vision, sore necks and a decline in conversation.

Hopefully, the person-to-person contact doesn’t occur because people are literally running into each other. Heads up out there!

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