Search for “texting while walking” on YouTube & you’ll find a lot of funny stuff. People walk into poles, walk into holes, one woman even fell into a mall fountain, all because they were texting instead of watching where they were going. Sure, we can get a good laugh from these videos & honestly, what’s the harm, right? I mean, they aren’t hurting anyone, are they?
Well, when you are a victim of these mobile-texters, it’s not so funny. I’ve been knocked off the sidewalk while running by consumed texters who didn’t even know I was there, and my two-year old son has been knocked down in a mall by a woman who was texting while pushing her baby stroller in front of her like a cow-catcher. And texters aren’t the only offenders. Pretty much anyone who is wrapped up in the digital-tech bubble are causing trouble for those who like to pay attention while ambling, or running, along.
Many people close themselves off from the public space they are occupying by inserting themselves in these bubbles. People who are texting, talking, or even just listening to ear phones are often so lost in their zone that they don’t always notice the street sign they are about to walk into, the runner behind them who is trying to pass, or the small child who is too short to be in their field of vision. They don’t realize that there is a world beyond the end of their smart phones & they don’t realize that this makes them bad citizens! It’s not only inconvenient and annoying to non-texters, but it can also be dangerous. Some have walked into traffic, some have fallen into open manholes, & some have fallen down stairs. For me, I just hate having to veer out of the way of a meandering, clueless person, engrossed in their text message. And I really hate having to pick my stunned toddler up from the floor & not even get an acknowledgement of the offense, let alone an apology.
Many US cities are are making it tough on texting walkers by handing them safety brochures or imposing fines (oh great, give them something annoying to read while walking, instead of texting!) Parts of London are installing pole pads (oh please check out that video on YouTube) so that distracted walkers won’t hurt themselves when they smack into lamp posts.
And while a lot of online comments say things along the lines of “Maybe we should let that whole Darwinian thing just do its job?” While yes, perhaps they do deserve a few bruises to wake them up, it doesn’t help the rest of us. For me, the problem is about a level of politeness that is necessary when occupying a public space when an individual is on a sidewalk, in a shopping mall, or other such places. If you plan on inserting yourself into the ebb & flow of society, then you need to actively be a part of it, not close yourself off in your own little world & expect everyone & everything to get out of your way. Smartphones, earphones, Emails, text messages…these are all great things, but should never become all consuming.
If you are one who likes to play with your gadgets on the go, please find a spot out of the way of walkers to plant your feet & do what you need to do. And please, if you are going to occupy a public space, like a mall or sidewalk, then be a part of the public; pop that bubble, put away the cell phone & headsets & by all means, watch where you are going.