William Saletan has an article out on the tendency for many Americans today to always be “hooked in” to technology through mobile devices (cell phones, iPods, etc.). I recall a woman loudly talking about her boyfriend leaving her, and the consequent emotional devastation, in front of me in the supermarket checkout line once. Only after 5 minutes did I notice the very subtle ear piece she was wearing (this was not the express line, so yes, 5 minutes). This was 3-4 years ago. Today my first hypothesis would likely be that she had an ear piece, not that she was schizophrenic, which is what I was wondering then. I always carry my cell phone on my person and have my iPod shuffle ear buds handy when I’m out & about doing errands and what not. I’m not speaking here as an outsider to this phenomenon. I do think that there are downsides, and Saletan highlights some of the more obvious ones (usually having to do with transportation). But I also think that we don’t have a good grasp of the impact on overall productivity of this sort of thing. After all, if you’re in the supermarket checkout line browsing the web via your iPhone, isn’t that a more productive use of time than just standing around, which after all doesn’t exactly require much conscious explicit cognitive functions? How often are you going to be in an “emergency” situation in a supermarket checkout line where you need to be able to hear the clerk talk to you before it’s your turn to be rung up?
Note: Someone should really ask about what it means that many obese are starting to ride around in scooters in lieu of walking. I see this more and more, and I don’t live in Mississippi.