How many times have you been talking to someone and they are distracted by their cellphones, checking their mail or some all important thing that can’t wait until you finish your conversation? Or you were late to do something because you’re cell phone distracted you? Have you ever bumped into someone or something or took a misstep because you were too busy looking at your phone? You wouldn’t be alone if you have, although some people’s misfortunes end up on You Tube or the national evening news, such as the man who fell down a manhole because he was distracted by his cell phone. It’s a world-wide problem apparently and a quick Google search turned up a slew of videos of people too distracted to pay attention to their surroundings because they were looking at their phones.
The cellphone is one of the biggest distractions that people face on a daily basis, whether it’s at home, work and unfortunately in the car while driving. Businesses have had to make rules about their employees having their cell phones out because it interferes with how well they do their jobs. In 2008 over 1,000 people were sent to the ER with an injury that resulted from texting and walking; doubling from what it had been the two previous years. [I could not find a more recent stat for texting and walking but if it had been doubling two years running ten years ago, it certainly doesn’t bode well for today’s numbers I imagine.] Distracted driving accounted for 25% of all motor vehicle fatalities in 2018, and in 2015 , cell phones alone accounted for 14% of distracted driving resulting in motor vehicle fatalities. Somewhere along the line people began to be so consumed with checking in on their virtual lives rather than paying attention to their real ones, risking personal injury, even death to themselves and others. Common risks associated with distracted walking include: everything from minor sprains and scrapes to more serious injuries such as broken bones, concussions, spinal cord injury even death – not just to yourself but possibly another person(s) as well.
Scientist have been doing an increasing amount of studies into the human’s ability to visually perceive things. They once believed what the human eye took in was more like a video tape, but studies have demonstrated it is something far less precise when people are not paying attention. The term ‘inattentional blindness’ was coined in 1998 by Arien Mack, PhD of New School of Social research and the late Irvin Rock, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley when published the book, “Inattentional Blindness,” describing a series of experiments on the phenomenon. Mack came to the conclusion that there is no conscious perception without attention. To me this is similar to the difference between hearing and listening which I discussed in an earlier blog post, Listen. Barring any medical issues, similar to the way hearing is an automatic physical process so is seeing – they are two of the five human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. However, similar to the way one must pay attention in order to effectively listen, so one must also do so to effectively be able to visually perceive what’s going on around them.
Constantly having your head in your phone or staring at your computer screen endlessly for hours on end is not healthy. It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that. Perhaps, it takes a little common sense, which in that case – society may be in trouble.
Are we really capturing the moment when we take photos?
I saw a headline flash across my Alexa EchoShow the other day while working at my desk. It said that a recent study concluded that taking pictures detracts from a person’s overall experience. Kind of hard for a photographer to read but as someone who has been behind the camera for over 40 years now, I completely agree.
A number of years ago when my children were actively playing on their lacrosse, hockey and football teams, I would watch them through the lens of my camera. My daughter was goalie and as the mother of a goalie let me tell you – watching your kid get pelted with missiles that are aimed at them traveling upwards of 30-50mph is very difficult. A mother’s instinct it to defend their young when they are under attack and having to watch and do nothing wasn’t an option for me, so I hid behind my camera, narrowed my focus just on her and not the players on attack.
Many times, hours after the game when the house was quiet I would go over the game photos and find that I relived the game all over again. I would have whole different perspective on the game simply because I had narrowed my focus so much. But did this detract from my overall experience of the game at that time? Absolutely, I wasn’t “present” for the whole game experience. I wasn’t sitting in the stands with the other parents, talking about our kids and cheering them on together; choosing instead to sit on the sidelines by myself with my face in the camera. I wasn’t taking in the entire scene – stepping back and taking in the bigger picture of my environment.
I remember listening to a security expert who was talking on the news shortly after one of the school shootings who was advising kids and adult alike not to get their cell phones out during these intensely dangerous situations because you are not entirely taking in the situation when you are doing that – even if you are just holding your phone up and not looking through the lens.
“Using phones can distract people from the actions they need to be taking in the moment, such as running, hiding and listening to directions from first responders.”– Ken Trump, Security Expert with 30+yrs experience
The power of observation can be a very effective tool in our life skills and one that should be given a little bit more attention these days. It may be the difference between life and death. If you think you are more observant than the next person, check out a few of these videos to see how well you do.
Brain Games – Inattentional Blindness and Smooth Pursuit
How’d you do? Next time you take out your cellphone while your walking, think twice about it and remember that you are missing a lot of what is going on around you.
Distracted Walking – Safety.com
Sights Unseen – American Psychological Association
Takes Steps to Avoid Injury – National Safety Council
Heads Up, Phones Down – National Safety Council
Texting and Walking Injuries – Reader’s Digest
100 Distracted Driving Facts & Statistics for 2018 – Teensafe.org