Is Your Smart Phone Making Dumber?

These days, almost everyone has a smart phone. You can download plenty of apps that can make you smarter or healthier or more informed. You are certainly more connected – texts, emails, WhatsApp, and of course, dating apps. But what if I were to say that your phone is actually making you dumber?

There are multiple types of intelligence – academic (book smarts), emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and of course, street smarts.

Street smarts include common sense, how to handle yourself in difficult situations, or fixing things on the fly. More literally, street smarts is situational awareness: how to walk in an urban environment – avoiding potholes, hustlers, pickpockets, and escaping from a potential mugger.

Your phone, however, teaches you none of these things. In fact, it might actually prevent you from learning those things. I would argue that you are indeed dumber and getting worse the more you depend on your smart phone.

Let me ask you this question: What is the most dangerous place you will ever visit on a regular basis?

I don’t mean Watts or Compton in Los Angeles or the slums of Calcutta or Manila.

What I mean is every large parking lot ever built.

My dad once told me that parking lots are dangerous places. There are cars moving in tight confines. Tall cars block the view for shorter cars. Young children who lack sense and awareness are darting around in excitement. You cannot tell whether a car is entering or exiting a parking spot. Shopping carts are another hazard.

Given all that, why do most people have their heads down?

Two weeks ago, I was about to pull out of a parking spot in a parking structure when I see a man walking with his phone down. That’s pretty on par for 2021, except he was walking in the middle of the path! He was totally oblivious to the fact that I was about to pull out. He could not hear my car engine’s noise. In fact, he was so engrossed with whatever he was reading on his phone.

This is not just about me or my interests trumping his. This is a two-way street. As the driver, I have a legal duty to operate my vehicle in a safe manner. As a pedestrian, I also have a duty to walk in a safe manner. To borrow fighter pilot jargon, keep your head on a swivel. You never know where the dangers will come from. But if your focus is 6 inches in front of your face, you will miss 97% of the threats.

For once, put your phone down when you are on the road or walking in parking lot. Your phone is not helping you get smarter. It is not just making you dumber but a danger.

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