Walking to the train, I have my phone in my hand. Why? So I can stay connected while I walk. Yes, it makes no sense — I noticed that after I wrote those words. The need to be productive and connected took over me. Once it beeps I immediately check my phone to see what’s going on. I got a text, and I am answering right away — yes, while still walking… Oops, almost got run over by a car… I need to pay more attention when I am walking if I want to get to the train in one piece.
A report released recently by the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that the number of pedestrians killed in traffic jumped by 11 percent last year, 2016, becoming nearly 6,000. Drivers distracted by their devices are the rising cause of traffic crashes, but there are a growing number of pedestrians too, who can become oblivious to traffic around them.
As for me, I don’t want to be added to that statistic so I put my phone away, I will text later when I arrive at the train station. I encourage you to do the same, or move to Germany. One town in Germany had a creative idea and installed traffic lights directly in the sidewalk. Now pedestrians won’t have to look up to check for oncoming cars; they can see a strip of flashing red lights and immediately know to stop. As out of the box idea as this is, I am not sure it serves the purpose and is the right solution. What will happen when they run into traffic where there is no cross road?! We should be more responsible with our devices on the road.
I made it to the train station alive, and am now standing at the platform. Every commuter on the platform has their face glued to their smartphone, so I do the same.
The train is here, we all go inside to find our seats.
I try to make an eye contact with the lady next to me, as I notice she has a cool blouse. I wonder where she got it, I think our kids go to the same school, I remember her from drop off. But she is hyper focused on her device so I decide to do the same — I pull out my phone, and I am now in my own world disconnected from all other commuters. We are all present at the same location but each in his/her own virtual world. Together alone.
As I get to the office I started thinking — what made me stare at my phone while walking and then on the train? Do I really need to be on it 24/7? Why can’t I put it down and take a little break, clear my head? Even more — Why can’t I be present and make that human connection with others?
I have no answer to why I walk and text (I promise to research and get back to you). But as for my train ride, let’s face it — it is easier for both me and my fellow passengers to be engaged with our devices than start a conversation, or worse, stare awkwardly at each other for that 30 minute train ride.
I can rely on my device to be there when I need it, to provide me with all the information I can dream of — all at the palm of my hand. I can be entertained and educated, so why should I make an effort with my fellow commuters?
Our devices make us accessible all the time. They also allow us to “look busy” in awkward situation. Sitting on the train and looking around is not happening anymore. Getting into an elevator and sparking a conversation with our neighbor?! Nope, not happening.
Chatting with the other dog owner at the dog park, why?! I can snapchat with my e-friend.
But what are we missing when we are doing that? Besides the obvious of meeting someone interesting and gaining a new friend, we miss the human connection. With kids it’s even more severe as it can lead to lack of recognizing emotions, and lack of empathy to others.
So what can we do? Simple, put our phones down.
Put it away when on the road — walking or driving! You do not want to be added to the statistics and get hurt just because you are on your smartphone.
While grabbing lunch, eat and be present. Don’t pull out your phone while eating. If you are having a meal with a friend, pay attention to them and only them. Make an eye contact and be present at the conversation. Your online friends can wait an hour until you are finished eating.
At the dog park. Can you pay attention to the dogs and the dogs’ owners? Be present, your dog will thank you, and who knows, you may find a new friend.
Out of site during the elevator ride. Have your smartphone in your bag when you get into the elevator. Say hello to other people that are riding it with you. If you feel up for the challenge, ask them a genuine question. Something like: How are you? Do you work/live in this building? Even make a comment about the weather.
For us parents at the playground. It can be so boring not to pick at our phones. But remember why you are there. To make memories with your children. There are also other parents there, most likely of kids the same age. This is your perfect unexpected parenting group. Moms and dads in your area.
And as the day come to an end — Put your phone to bed before you go to sleep. Take a break from your phone before you go to sleep and while sleeping. This will improve your quality of sleeping, and allow you to be well rested and fresh for the new day to come.
Originally published at medium.com