It's a social world out there.

Are we becoming more distracted?

Posted on: February 10, 2010

Communication habits have changed drastically in the past decade. A good place to see just how much this has effected our lives is while traveling, driving, on a train or in an airport. Ipods, smartphones and laptops are fixtures of these places. The personal, one-on-one conversation that in the past took place so often in these arenas seem to have vanished.  Travelers can now be seen texting, listening to music or podcasts, writing email, plainly, being connected. The has caused the introduction of many laws and regulations about when and where mobile devices can be used. These devices have increased our ability and desire to multitask, making us more distracted from the task at hand, whether it be walk, driving or sitting in an airport, we are significantly less aware of our surroundings.

The impact of new technologies and media use are still being researched. It is clear that we have changed how much we multitask and how much media we consume.  Smartphones and laptops have changed how and if we relax, have you ever gone on vacation without one of these devices?  Vacations from technologies for many aren’t vacations, we have found ourselves “needing” our phones, the ability to check email and see the latest news or status updates through twitter.  Preliminary studies are showing that being on a cell phone greatly decrease how aware a user is of their surroundings.  According to a recent New York Times article a Western Washington University psychology class is finding just how distracted we are, stating;

“One of the students dressed as a clown and unicycled around a central square on campus. About half the people walking past by themselves said they had seen the clown, and the number was slightly higher for people walking in pairs. But only 25 percent of people talking on a cellphone said they had, Mr. Hyman said.” (1)

25% is a very low percentage of people, this albeit small, study clearly shows the extent of a cell phones distraction on a user. Technology will continue to affect how we communicate globally and how we live out our daily lives.  It has become clear that we will likely only become more immerse in media and technology, however, it will not be without consequences. Laws are being put in place around technology use and traveling because we have become distracted enough to cause harm to others, it is time to consider how and when we use technology and how if effects those around us.

1) RICHTEL, M. (2010, January 16). Driven to Distraction – Pedestrians, Too, Are Distracted by Cellphones – Series – NYTimes.com. The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved January 19, 2010, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/technology/17distracted.html?emc=eta1

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