It must be time to go back to school, because The American College of Emergency Physicians has issued a warning to all kids and young adults — be careful where you text. Too many people are texting on their cell phones and PDAs while walking, biking, rollerblading and even while driving. While you’re unlikely to get into too much trouble while walking and texting, driving and texting can be as deadly as drinking while driving.
“People are texting and they trip and fall on their faces — usually people in their 20s,” noted Dr. James Adams, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine tells the group. “We see a lot of face, chin, mouth [and] eye injuries from falls.”
Why do people feel the need to text and drive or walk at the same time? The national obsession with “keeping in touch” with our friends, family and strangers (witness Twitter, “I’m eating a sandwich now.”). It has reached epic, absurd proportions.
This week, I was interviewed by a reporter from Newsweek writing about the recent “Truman Show delusion.” The real problem, I noted, is that 50 years ago, this truly was a delusion — that thousands of strangers would be interested in following your life. Nowadays, it’s not so much a delusion as hundreds of people’s real lives. Witness reality TV shows like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” or “Big Brother” (which provides 24/7 live feeds from around the house on their website, ala the Truman Show). Witness services like Twitter that can keep the world updated on your every movement (including those we’d rather not know about). Witness the constant updates on Facebook.
The “always on” nature of our lives is hitting a tipping point. While it can be temporarily intoxicating to have “followers” on Twitter or thousands of “friends” on Facebook, often they add little quality to our lives (outside of inflating our own self-esteem and delusions of grandeur — “Look, I have 17 followers on Twitter!”). In fact, when you talk to some people about their Facebook or Myspace “friends” or followers on Twitter, they emphasize the quantity of those numbers, not the quality. “I have over 4,000 friends on Myspace!!”
No, you have over 4,000 faceless names whom you know little about and most of whom you care even less about.
Texting is just the latest incarnation of this obsession. We can’t be alone with ourselves for 2 minutes without thinking, “Hey, I wonder what Eric is up to? Let me text him…” And while this may be entirely appropriate for a teenager (hey, friends are their lives), it becomes downright embarrassing to see a 28 year old who can’t go outside without texting and twittering every 2 minutes.
This quote from a doctor in this article on texting is appropriate:
“We think we’re multitasking, but we’re not,” he said. “You’re focusing on one task for a split second, then focusing on another one, and with something moving 40 miles an hour like a car, it just takes a couple of seconds to be hit.”
That’s because when you’re traveling 40 MPH or 60 MPH, it literally takes only 1 or 2 seconds for a minor driving correction to turn into a serious, life-threatening accident. Cars stop unexpectedly in front of you. Normally, you slam on your brakes and while annoyed or a little scared, you stop in time and everything is alright. But if you’re texting during that 1 or 2 seconds normally available for reaction time, you will turn a near-miss into a possibly serious accident. In the blink of an eye.
So go ahead and enjoy your texting, but please do so safely and courteously.