The Even Darker Side

Recently, I’ve seen a number of public service spots pointing out how texting or cell phone use while driving is twice as deadly as driving drunk. Not only do I believe it; I’ve seen it, up close and personal. The strangest time was last Sunday morning while I was doing my morning walk with the sweet-crazy Aussie-Saluki. We were halfway across the street that had a four-way stop when a driver comes up the street…and keeps going, without even stopping. Fortunately, I’m slightly paranoid, and look around when crossing streets, even at stop signs and in crosswalks, and when I suspected what might happen, we sprinted. Even so, the driver barely missed us, but he passed so close that I could see he wasn’t even looking – except at the cell-phone he held in one hand. And he was dressed in coat and tie, apparently heading for church.

Not a day goes by that I don’t see text-impaired driving and walking, and at least where we live it’s getting worse. I see mothers with small children in their cars glued more to their cellphones than either their driving or their children. I even occasionally see parents walking with children – wearing earbuds and ignoring those offspring. I see scores of college students driving one-handed with the other hand holding a cellphone to their ear or texting on it.

What has struck me about all this is that it’s an extreme form of narcissism. All of these individuals are so wrapped up in themselves and whatever pleasure or need the texting or phoning fulfills that they don’t and possibly can’t think of the potential consequences of overuse and careless use of instant communications.

Young people, particularly, seem glued to their devices, as if they are prosthetics that they cannot do without. Increasingly, college students are spending more time on social media and less on their studies, but paradoxically, in general, they’re less socially adept because they interact less with others in direct personal contact and restrict themselves to electronic contacts. It even appears that the majority of college students move across campus, earbuds firmly in place, ignoring the other students around them.

It’s as if all these users are electronic/communications druggies, with all the narcissistic faults of alcohol or drug dependency. And no one seems to recognize this… or the increasingly lethal side-effects.

7 thoughts on “The Even Darker Side”

  1. Frank says:

    This commentary is quite interesting and, I think, totally on the mark.

    In a series of books known as “The RCN series” by David Drake, (military SF, what I would refer to as fun escapism), there is a recurring character “Adele Mundy” aka “Lady Mundy,” who much prefers electronic contact than any person to person. She sits at her “communications station” beside the hero character, and often speaks to him over the computer system while looking at her screen where his image has been inserted. She is gifted to the point of genius with handling any information or electronic system that stores/handles information. Interestingly, she is also a stoned cold killer, completely asexual, and very close to a sociopath.

    What I find fascinating is that Drake was presenting her as, I believe, an archetype or caricature, but with the same electronic preference/addiction/dependence you mention. The character works because of the balance.

    This is fascinating for fiction, but, as you have portrayed, not so much fun in reality.

  2. Tim says:

    In the UK, driving whilst using a mobile phone is an offence. However, you rarely hear of any prosecution though the police can get access to mobile records in the event of an accident which may lead to prosecution. The increased use of in-car cameras may however change this.

    Also – I held a meeting and asked everyone to turn their mobiles off. You would have thought I was asking them to take their clothes off, given the indignant expressions.

  3. Corwin says:

    In Australia there is not only a heavy fine for doing this, but it is administered. People are being fined everyday all over the country and there is a solid TV campaign against the practice.

  4. JakeB says:

    I’ve also observed an effect similar to how yawning seems to work with cell phones — for instance, in a meeting or other situation where people haven’t checked their phones for a while, all I need to do is reach for my phone (without even pulling it out of my pocket, necessarily) and other people will start reaching for theirs, as if my action has primed them to take that little hit of electronic candy.

  5. Wine Guy says:

    There’s a reason they were called “Crackberries.”

    Considering the police of various flavors (city police, sheriff deputies, and CHP officers) are the worst offenders when it comes to phone use while driving, I have a hard time taking their law enforcement efforts seriously.

  6. Jim says:

    It is also illegal to use the phone while driving unless it is hands-free in Ontario and some other provinces in Canada, but while there are occasional drives to fine/catch abusers, it is also not being enforced regularly that I can see.

  7. Frank Hamsher says:


    Further detail of how these things are dealt with in Western Australia:

    Because the fines are so high and virtually automatic, most people pull over to the side of the road to answer calls here.

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