The Dangers of Digital Distractions
The video that went viral a few years ago of a woman who fell into a mall fountain while texting drew many a chuckle from viewers. But it’s no laughing matter when people are seriously injured due to digital distractions. Visits to emergency rooms because of distracted pedestrians on cellphones are on the rise, with reported injuries more than doubling between 2004 and 2010. Walking helmets for pedestrians may not be far off.
Still, it seems ridiculous that people can’t put their devices aside long enough to watch where they’re going. It’s ludicrous—and sad—that people are getting injured because of a distorted sense of priorities, namely that staying upright, focused, and uninjured is more important than texting.
As for texting while driving, or even just looking at your phone while driving, please, please don’t. The best way to prevent being injured or killed by a driver glancing at a cellphone is to be fully alert and observant ourselves.
The dangers of digital distractions have become bad enough that organizations such as The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction have arisen to deal with the resulting issues. If you’re not sure whether you have a technology addiction—or you are in denial about it (“I could give it up any time”)—here’s a quick test the center offers to help you decide.
Admittedly, social media and other web services are difficult to ignore. For all the productivity benefits technology has created in the workplace, digital distractions are now contributing to productivity losses that are pretty significant. Given routine interruptions, noise from the next cubicle, meetings overload, and other disruptions, it’s hard enough to be productive without the overlay of digital distractions.
By the way, handheld devices are not solely responsible for the woes of the digital age. For example, staring too long at any screen, even a desktop computer or laptop screen, can pose health problems. As the aptly named website putyourscreendown.com points out, too much screen time may be rapidly aging your eyes. The 20-20-20 rule for reducing computer-triggered eyestrain seems well worth following.
Is it simply due to plain old distraction, or could there be a connection between damaged eyes and people falling into mall fountains? Let’s not find out.