On The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman has had it with 'distracted walkers,' people who are too busy staring at their phones while they stroll and who survive solely because they assume "the rest of us will navigate around them." Burkeman thinks we should stop being so polite and, instead, not move out of the way.
Not that it really matters, but on Friday I missed a subway train because the woman in front of me drifted placidly to a standstill on the stairs, distracted by something on her smartphone. In hindsight I realise that this was probably a subway-specific thing: it was her determination to retain network coverage, I'm guessing, that rendered her oblivious to the people behind her. But as I stalked along the platform, cursing under my breath, I mentally filed the incident alongside a number of recent above-ground encounters. These days, it seems, I'm forever navigating around people utterly absorbed in their phones.
In fact, I'll go further, though I admit I have zero scientific evidence for the following observation: here in New York, in the last few months, it feels as though we've crossed a threshold. Smartphones have been ubiquitous for years, of course but much more recently, there seems to have been a shift in social norms. For many people, the unwritten rules of sidewalk choreography now include this: if what I'm reading or watching on my phone is sufficiently interesting to me, it's entirely up to you to get out of my way, just as if I were very frail, or three years old, or blind. Or a lamppost.
Meanwhile, on Wired, Mat Honan explains that the difficulty from 'getting away from it all' isn't the technology, but rather, ourselves. He provides some handy advice on how to bring your phone with you when you are 'getting away from it all,' while still keeping it on a leash.
Meanwhile, technology can enhance your wilderness experience. The Night Sky mobile app on iOS, for example, can tell you exactly which constellations you?re observing, and it serves up thousands of years of human history. There are other apps that have transformed birding; they can identify species, forecast migrations, even alert you to rare birds in your area. And by tracking your location from your pocket, your phone lets you spend less time squinting at a map and more time looking at the world.
The phone isn?t the problem. The problem is us?our inability to step away from email and games and inessential data, our inability to look up, be it at an alpine lake or at family members. We won?t be able to get away from it all for very much longer. So it?s vitally important that each of us learns how to live with a persistent connection, everywhere we go, whether it?s in the wilderness or at a dinner party.
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