Twenty years ago when the phone rang it was generally for something important, a customer wanting to place an order, a colleague requiring detailed information on some joint work or your mom giving you the latest scoop on aunt Sadie’s recent gall bladder operation. If someone dared to call with the mundane or trivial garbage we now routinely accept we’d all have said, ‘I’m sorry, but I cannot talk now. I’m working.’
But then Al Gore invented the Internet and global warming, and cellphones became smaller than bricks and considerably more useful. Through those combined events we now have the ability to let the world know what we are up to at every moment of the day by Twitter, Facebook or the ubiquitous text message.
Alberta’s distracted driving law comes into effect Thursday, a law that will carry a nearly $200 fine for those who are caught trying to apply lipstick, trying to eat a full course meal or trying to send a Facebook update while driving.
There are a lot of distracted drivers on the streets and highways these days. You can tell them by their downward below-the-dashboard gaze and the fact they are either drifting into your lane or heading obliviously towards you through a red light.
In addition to being solid proof that Darwin was wrong about species evolving (although I suspect we will all have thumbs the size of cellphone keys in another three generations) distracted drivers are a proof that we are living in a truly distracted society.
There was a time when a couple sitting in a restaurant diverted their eyes from each other only to the menu or the dinner plate, unless they hated each other, of course. Now it is all too common to see that same couple seldom look up from their iPhone, Android or Blackberry screen to navigate their fork to their plate, let alone to look each other in the eye while having a meaningful conversation.
Likewise, the movie theatre has become a place where too many people are diverting their eyes from the silver screen to the cellphone screen.
The ability to instantly send every thought, whether by text, tweet or e-mail, has not allowed us to be more productive as was the promise when Captain Kirk was dating green aliens or when George Jetson was jetting around in that cool little flying car we were all supposed to be driving now. Instead, we have become slaves to our cellphones, each beep, boop and blip causing us to salivate like Pavlov’s dog as we rush to respond to the most mundane of crap.
With the constant barrage of information hitting us every hour of the day and our now self-imposed obligation to answer it all instantly, is there any wonder why so little seems to get accomplished as compared to 20 years ago?
Cellphones were once large chunks of plastic that were heavy to carry. Although they continue to get smaller and lighter, the weight they place on our time and attention is far heavier and nearing the point of crushing us.