Two contrasting pieces in the news recently. First, an Atlantic piece about a recent CityLab meeting:
Does mobile technology give people an excuse to isolate themselves, or is it an unprecedented tool for bringing people together?
Unsurprisingly, tech enthusiasts see new apps and mobile devices as a great way of building communities.... Specifically, location matters because robust digital networks can help people build better “real life” connections. The more smoothly people can transition back and forth between their communities online and their communities in real life, the argument goes, the less lonely everyone will be.
Then, The Verge had a piece about how someone was shot on a Muni train in September. Apparently there were no witnesses because everyone in the car was looking so intently at their smartphones.
Passengers... were so focused on their smartphones that they didn't notice a man drawing and pointing his gun until he shot university student Justin Valdez, District Attorney George Gascón says.... Security footage from September 23rd captured "dozens" of passengers apparently ignoring a man who drew a .45-caliber pistol several times, pointed it across the aisle, and eventually shot Valdez as he stepped off the train. "These weren't concealed movements — the gun is very clear," Gascón told SFGate. "These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They're just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They're completely oblivious of their surroundings."
Smartphones are the targets in something like 50% of all thefts in San Francisco now.
So not only can they distract you in a way that makes you a softer target for thieves, they can also distract you from other, even more serious crimes.
How long before there's an incident and all the potential witnesses claim to have seen nothing because they were on their cellphones? It could be the new "I was in the bathroom" excuse.