A new study has revealed that walking straight while texting at the same time is not possible. By many other people’s standards, eating while texting and holding a conversation are just as difficult.
The study asked 26 young people to walk through a room under the watchful gaze of eight motion tracking cameras and either type the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” (a sentence unique for using every letter of the alphabet) or scroll through a text chain and read the words within. The test proved that every one of the veteran texters were unable to properly walk and text and at the same time and instead looked a lot like robots.
While texting and walking is undoubtedly safer than texting and driving, it still poses risks to both the individual with the phone and the people around them. There is an adage, that regardless of whether a person thinks they are the best driver in the world, they must still be aware of their surroundings because the others drivers on the road are undoubtedly, not quite as good as them. The same is plausible for anyone who is walking because they risk wandering into traffic, falling off a ledge, or bumping into someone inadvertently.
Texting and all other functions of mobile phones being a distraction in general is nothing new. In addition to walking straight while texting not being possible, other people and institutions have recognized that doing other things properly, such as holding a regular conversation while eating is not all that easy either while being distracted by a mobile phone.
Last year, a restaurant in Israel sparked controversy when they decided to offer their customers an incentive in the form of a 50% discount if they powered down and switched their mobile device off while they were visiting. A completely separate restaurant in DC took a more authoritarian approach and simply banned cell phone usage and photography inside their building.
There are even more sources than simply scientific studies and restaurants that aim to encourage people to power down and put away the distraction. In a recent Reddit discussion thread, a user posed a question under the subreddit (subcategory) “Legal Advice” about whether their teacher was legally allowed to collect their cell phones at the beginning of class and place them into a box. Reddit user malachi23 responded quite eloquently with advice of their own:
“You don’t have to “listen to his silly rules” because you are his student, you only need to abide by them as long as you want to be his student. If you don’t want to abide, then don’t be his student.”
The same advice is ironically accurate for anyone who wishes to eat at the restaurant in DC that has banned mobile phone usage. Even some online dating sites are starting to pose the question about how potential couples feel about mobile phone usage while out and about. One of the questions that members of OkCupid are asked is, “Is it okay to answer your cell phone while out with a friend or a date?” The possible answers to this question are “a) Of course. Why wouldn’t it be? b) Friend, yes. Date, no. c) No, that’s just rude.”
For a group of friends that goes out to a restaurant and wants a nice mobile-distraction-free-evening but did not visit a location with any such enforcement in effect, there is always the “Phone Stack” game. The premise is simple although costly for the loser; everyone takes their phone out of their pocket or purse and places it face down with everyone else’s device on the center of the table. Whoever grabs their phone first, pays for everyone. If everyone can resist reaching for their phone for the entire evening then costs are equally split.
If it is already difficult or not possible to walk, text and eat at the same time with modern-day smartphones, one has to wonder if Google Glass will bring similar or more advanced challenges as technology continues to play more prominent roles in people’s lives.
By Jonathan Holowka