We know we should be focused on driving, or the traffic as we attempt to cross the street. We should be paying attention to the person standing next to us on the ‘L’ as we text away, but that phone has its hook into us and we can’t put it away.
You have all heard about drivers in Chicago and the suburbs getting into accidents because a text or a phone call distracts them.
There have been plenty of articles describing people being attacked on the street while they are talking or texting on their smartphones.
How many times have you seen pedestrians with cell phone in hand walking into the street totally oblivious to the cars heading their way?
Reports of CTA passengers being mugged for their i-Phones are constantly in the headlines.
Even after hearing story after story about how we put ourselves at risk when we use our phones, we just can’t seem to leave it in our pocket.
What is it that makes us pull out that phone as soon as we feel it vibrate even though we may be putting ourselves at risk?
“I do think it’s a kind of Pavlovian response, a primitive response,” said Nicholas Carr, a writer based in Boulder, Colo., who explores this phenomenon in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “The sense that there might be a message out there for us is kind of hard to resist. In all sorts of situations people find it harder and harder not to glance at their smartphone.
This is not a good thing. We should be using all of our senses to maintain awareness of what is happening around us.
When you are driving your car and trying to read a text message you are not only putting yourself at risk, but also the lives of other motorists and pedestrians.
Carr has more to say on the subject. “There are studies about the craving we have for new information. It’s pretty clear that when we get a new little piece of information, our brains release some dopamine — which is the neurotransmitter chemical that is how the brain encourages us to do things; it’s also the chemical implicated in most addictions. And as you get rewarded by that kind of pleasure of getting a new piece of information, you want to repeat that. … There is something very deep and very primitive in our minds that wants us to gather every little bit of information around us.”
The problem is that the information smartphones help us gather usually has nothing to do with our immediate personal safety. It distracts us from noticing the would be thief on the CTA waiting to pounce, or the person who decided to cross the street at the last moment, while we took a quick look to see who sent that last text.
So now you know the dangers, which means you can do something about it. Start retraining yourself to use your smartphone instead of letting it use you.
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