As I entered the crowded restaurant, I immediately noticed one round table that stood out from the others. My kids were sitting with their cousins around that table, each with head bowed over folded hands and appearing to be in solemn prayer.
Then I realized that they don’t pray that way. (They pray with their heads up and eyes wide open although I’ve always told them that they weren’t ready to do this until they could see the divine all around them).
As I drew closer, I saw that they were each absorbed in their smart phones. Oblivious of one another, they were looking at facebook, Instagramming, texting and playing games.
At least they were sitting down. I see people young and old in malls, on sidewalks and crossing streets walking distractingly in the same prayerful posture with only a vague idea of where they are headed.
Until there’s an app to tell them that the light is red and they’re about to have an accident, I can’t think of a more dangerous way to walk, other than adding dark clothes, earphones and loud music.
Some drivers are no less distracted. Although it’s illegal to text and drive, I still see others glancing at their phones and some even holding onto their phones as they make their turns. In pre-cellular days, drivers were only distracted as they put on makeup, reached for their French fries, shouted at the kids in the backseat and argued with their partners.
My rule of thumb for smartphone safety is this. Ask yourself, “Would it be safe to read a book at this time?” If it isn’t, resist the urge to answer that call, read a text or check your mail. It’s just not that urgent. Your safety and the wellbeing of others are.
I agree that text and e-mail communication can be convenient and efficient. We don’t have to answer them right away, but sometimes we do – when we should be attending to other more important tasks or one another.
I notice that in elevators, strangers are ruder than ever. To completely avoid small talk and any acknowledgment of the human being standing in front of them, they whip out their smart phones before the doors close with eyes to the screen for the duration of the ride.
Ask yourself, “Does my use of communication technology bring me closer to others and enhance my experience of real life?” How much of each day is consumed by pointless games, trivial posts and empty entertainment?
Be mindful in your choice of communication. Is this message best sent by text, e-mail or phone? I often find that I feel most connected and understand best the experiences of a friend with a face-to-face heart-to-heart chat.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician.