If you follow tech news as closely as I do, you’re probably just as crazy about staying connected as I am. If there isn’t yet an award for smartphone-battery-draining, I’m going to invent it. Burning through the 2,100mAh extended battery on my Galaxy Nexus is a breeze and takes just about three hours. Being the fanatic that I am, I tend to carry an extra battery, but that still doesn’t fix the problem: I’m the problem and I’m aware of it.
There are days when I hover over my phone to the point of no avail. Sometimes it’s because I’m streaming music on shuffle in search of that perfect song. But most of the time, I’m just waiting for a text message, replying to a Tweet, responding to an email, or surfing the Interwebs. Regardless, it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that staring at this 4.65-inch screen is taking away from what’s really going on around me. I can’t say whatever is happening around me is more important, but virtually everything on my screen is just as crucial to continuing my daily life as what is actually happening in my physical life.
To make matters worse, staying connected is now acknowledged as a rule of law in Germany, and is subject to compensation to be paid by your service provider. The reason? Inadequate access to connect. Word on the street is it’s an “essential part of life” now.
Coming soon: smartphones at your homeless shelter.
To all my readers who are currently driving on the Autobahn: look up from that tiny screen and get comfortable with the pedal on the left.
A court spokeswoman told Germany’s ARD television, "The Internet plays a very important role today and affects the private life of an individual in very decisive ways. Therefore loss of use of the Internet is comparable to the loss of use of a car.” Note: the spokeswoman is unnamed in her quote – probably for her own safety.
The day before that German court ruled connectivity was just as important as my breakfast and the roof over my head, I was on my way into the office like any other morning. I was running a bit late but I wasn’t speeding. There is an elementary school in my area and crossing guards were letting the kiddies go by at the stoplight right outside of my apartment. It was foggy.
Green. Clutch. First gear. Gas.
I’m cruising down the road with my fog lights on giving the inline-6 under the hood my full and undivided attention. For the record, that means I’ve got a hand on the wheel and I’m not putting on lipstick, shaving, washing my hair, reading the newspaper, rehearsing a part in a screenplay, spitting out of the window, drinking coffee, doing simple addition on my fingers and toes, or taking pictures with my front-facing camera. Basically, I’m driving like any other person with a license.
The car behind me gains speed. Front bumper? What front bumper? The car is now close enough for me to reach out and grab the phone in the driver’s in hand. The Honda swerves around me and drives past, phone raised with both hands holding it. A steering wheel floats by. The Honda swerves to get back in front of me. By the way, I’m going five over the speed limit. Call me old if you want, but I’ve already lived my life a quarter mile at a time.
What’s wrong with this story? Climax! I pull up next to the Honda and “signal” that to the driver: drive. Driver looks over, but not before the following happened in order: the sun visor is lowered, a seatbelt is fastened, the phone is thrown onto the passenger seat along with an unidentifiable object (either a light saber or lipstick – it was hard to tell). Finally, the car begins to slow and we are no longer side by side. Did I have to do this? No.
Should you? Yes.
We are at a point in time where connectivity is valued as an essential part of life. Staying connected is in the same category as food, shelter, and water. What sort of values are being instilled to maintain our physical well being, and the well being of others? It’s important to understand where and when we should use our phones. In the context of today’s world, there is no good time to lose focus on your surroundings. We may say we are giving something our full attention, but we are probably lying to ourselves.
What sort of situations do you deem necessary to pause and check your Twitter? If you said driving, stay away from school zones. If you said texting, stay away from the highway. And if you said don’t tell me what to do, you should look at the kid in the car beside you, the senior citizen driving in front of you, and the motorcycle two car-lengths behind you because they’re not going anywhere.
To be completely honest, there are times when disconnecting completely can help us. Find a balance and acknowledge it before you forget to change your baby’s diaper, check your blood-sugar level, and leave your dog in the car with the windows up.
So, tell me if I’m wrong reader. I don’t think there is any reason to say “I’m just driving” when you’re on call or sending a text. It’s the tiny moments in our lives that determine where and how we can affect others. Realize how you affect them, then ask yourself who is more important. Imagine the scene in The Dark Knight when both boats are rigged to explode and the detonator is on board the other. Staying connected is as important as that scene and, unfortunately, sometimes with similar consequences. Let me know how you feel about connectivity and how it relates to society in the comments below.