“Smombies” are people who stare at their smartphones while walking like zombies. They are a problem: according to a University of Washington study, one in three of us is busy dealing with a smartphone or other electronic device at risky road crossings.
Here’s one solution: Officials in the city of Augsburg have installed traffic lights embedded in the pavement. The idea came after a fifteen-year-old girl was killed by a tram. Police say she was distracted by her smartphone as she crossed the tracks. The new lights are more obvious to those looking down at their devices while walking.
Technology fixation is not just dangerous while we are ambulatory. Hearing loss, sedentary weight gain, sleep disruption, and damage to the eyes, neck, wrist, and fingers are all connected to excessive smartphone use. In addition, media multitasking contributes to poor attention span, depression, and anxiety. One study showed that people who multitasked while doing cognitive tests dropped as many IQ points as if they had just smoked marijuana.
In other words, smartphones make dumb people. What’s the answer?
Experts tell us to make rules such as: no smartphone usage at social events, while driving, or during interactions with others. Turn off all alerts at certain times during the day. Some people even create a long, frustrating password that makes it harder for them to turn on the phone casually.
This is all helpful advice, but I think something more visceral is at work. My smartphone makes me feel relevant by connecting me to the world. It also makes me feel important when people call, text, or email me. And feeling relevant and important is relevant and important to me.
Perhaps there’s a better way than basing our self-esteem on a slab of technology. Perhaps the best way for us to find significance is to stop seeking significance and seek Jesus instead. C. S. Lewis:
Jesus was clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23–24). Have you answered his call yet today?
Note: For more, please see my latest website article, Shakespeare and the Quest for Purpose.