The blessing and bane of mobile devices is that we take them with us wherever we go. For dedicated salespeople on call 24/7, a smart phone always on hand is an invaluable tool in delivering quality customer service to merchants. But the opposite is equally true: having mobile phones always at the ready can keep us constantly distracted from the joys and hazards of the tangible world.
It seems more and more pedestrians check email or text as they walk down the street. It is a hazardous habit to say the least. With your head in the "cloud," you run the risk of bumping into people or annoying the alert folks who dodge out of your way.
But irritation isn't the only result of device infatuation. The repercussions of not paying attention to your physical surroundings can be far worse. You could walk into a busy intersection while talking on your smart phone and get hit by a car. Or, if you talk on your phone as you plow through a stop sign in your car, you could hit a pedestrian crossing the street.
Even if you are able to avoid such mishaps and serious accidents, staying glued to phones and tablet computers causes you to miss out on delightful things both big and small. If you take a walk in the park, but your attention is focused on a mobile app, you miss out on making eye contact with your neighbors or noticing the graceful agility of a dog catching a Frisbee in mid air. Many people find such small interactions with the physical world uplifting, even essential to a feeling of well-being.
You might ask yourself, is it really that relaxing to spend a weekend surfing the web and playing video games on your tablet? If it leaves your nerves more jangled than if you drank a thermos of coffee, you have your answer. In an odd way, sensory overload via mobile devices can lead to sensory deprivation. Your mind and body are renewed by such simple activities as breathing fresh air and allowing for quiet, meditative time. These old-fashioned pleasures are more likely to benefit your mental and physical health than over indulgence in the mobile realm.
Excessive attention to mobile devices may also reduce your effectiveness as a problem solver. Creative solutions are often arrived at by contemplation, when you are free from distractions. If you're frustrated by a problem at work, the bells and whistles of social media could be depriving you of clarity. Unplugging your brain from the latest app may help you focus on a solution.
Today, we rely on the Internet and almost instantaneous connectivity to colleagues, family and friends. Most of us cannot do without technology, nor would we want to. But technology should be used wisely, so it can do what it is intended to do - help us live more healthy, productive and fulfilling lives.
There is no need to throw away mobile devices. All we need to do is be aware that they should be turned off from time to time so that other pursuits (like navigating the crosswalk when the light is green, not red) can claim their fair share of our attention.
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