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It’s clear to me, we are all becoming completely addicted to our cell phones, especially those new smart phones. They are so enticing and powerful that we just can’t take our eyes off them. (I warn you this is a rant.) You see people everywhere mindlessly walking along staring at their phone. And while I complain about hazardous cell phone usage to whoever will listen, I am also likely to be guilty (from time to time) of using them when I shouldn’t.

The Columbus Dispatch had an article a few weeks back about 20 students at Wilmington College who took part in a voluntary study where they had to give up their cell phones, computers and television for 24 hours. About 15 hours into the study two of the students were rushed to the hospital after having extreme anxiety attacks. Technology is that addictive.

Do you remember “Get Smart’s” Cone of Silence? If you’re a baby boomer or perhaps a Steve Correll fan you may be familiar with the “Cone of Silence”. Max and the Chief would lower the “cone” to have a top-secret discussion or argument. Then after they were done they would retract the cone and pretend as is nothing happened. Well I like to think of our cars as that “cone of silence”.

Many of us embrace the idea that some how when we’re on the phone in our car it magically navigates for us and no one “notices” that we are completely distracted as we chat or text. Think, “picking your nose”, but with far greater implications and potential danger. Last month I was in downtown Columbus crossing High Street in a marked crosswalk with the pedestrian “Walk” light lit when a young lady in an SUV on her cell phone started to make a left turn (on red no less!) She just about ran me over. She never blinked, just keep on going as I dodged her car hood!

The American Psychological Association released a study, which asked the question “when people do two things at once, are they being more efficient or wasting time?” Their study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance (Vol. 27, No. 4) indicates that multitasking may actually be less efficient–especially for complicated or unfamiliar tasks–because it takes extra time to shift mental gears every time a person switches between the two tasks.

In a letter Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son in the 1740s, he offered the following advice: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one’s time; it was a mark of intelligence. “This steady and undissipated attention to one object is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”

Let’s face it; humans are not really capable of multilevel processing or multitasking as it is called. The truth is we are really linear thinking beings that are the most effective when we focus on doing one task at a time. Though we’re loath to admit it, multitasking inevitably takes longer and may even put us in harms way. That’s why when we walk and talk/text (or drive) we are often oblivious to things happening around us. I know you’ve seen it your self, but as evidence of this problem, I point out the viral You Tube video sensation last winter where a young woman is texting as she walks though a mall. She walks right into the Mall fountain. She get’s completely soaked, climbs out and continues on her way as if nothing happened.

Don’t think that just because we live on a small island that we some how immune from this behavior. If I had a dollar for every summer worker I saw last summer walking and texting like zombies I would be rich. Just spend a morning near the school during drop off and pick up and I guarantee you will see multiple cars with distracted drivers passing by. Survival requires you keep your senses sharp, and check for the glazed look in their eyes as they stare down at the phone.

Driving, walking and other “pedestrian activities” now require a new level of vigilance to avoid the “comatose cell phone addicted”. We are not doing a good job of curbing our behavior so it will be just a matter of time before laws will be enacted to limit our cell phone use. Several states have already launched “Driving while distracted” campaigns. Nine states ban all use of hand held cell phones while driving, 35 have outlawed texting. That does not help here in Ohio where we have no cell phone use laws, yet, that will save us from the distracted drivers and walkers. Cell phone addiction is rampant and we just can’t help ourselves.


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