Picture this: you had an emergency at home. Now you’re running very, very late to a business meeting. As you’re about to cross the street, a thought suddenly occurs: “I should go check in with the team.” So you take out your phone, type a message, and then hit send-all while crossing the pedestrian.
Twalking is the act of texting while talking. It’s not a crime (yet), but you’re probably guilty of this. Heck, if I’m guessing it right, you might even be reading this article while walking. If that’s the case (please tell me I’m wrong), here’s a friendly reminder to put your phone down and get back to this later when you’re in a safe place.
‘Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World’
In the book “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World,” co-author and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley argued that humans are information-seeking creatures, a characteristic that evolved from the animalistic behavior of foraging for food for survival.
According to studies, a human’s brain feels rewarded when it receives information, and this only drives the brain to seek more. Regularly checking our phones to look for information is our animalistic instinct telling us that we’re still hungry, that we need to hunt down more food.
Dr. Gazzaley compared us to animals in a way that an animal will probably stay in a tree to gather all the nuts before moving on to the next one. In this case, animals tend to weigh the benefits of moving against the drawbacks of staying.
On the other hand, humans tend to hop from one tree to another; that is, we don’t mind hopping from one smartphone application to the next. Why? Because it does not cost us anything to app-hop.
And on and on, the cycle goes. This is where we become addicted to tech use.
Tech Addiction Debunked
The Times Reporter Brian Chen talked to neuroscientists and psychologists about the matter. According to his report, all his subjects agreed that texting while walking might be a form of addictive behavior.
For Dr. Steven Sussman, a preventive medicine professor at the University of Southern California, not all constant phone use is considered addictive. If a job requires a person to check his or her phone constantly, this is not tech addiction.
On the other hand, you could have a tech addiction problem if you continuously do the following:
- Check your phone just to enhance your mood
- Become preoccupied with your device when you should be doing something else
- Text while walking
- Use your phone while driving
- Look for your phone when it’s taken away
- Feel the desire to get out of places with no reception
According to Common Sense Media’s Chief Executive Jim Steyer, the public needs to be aware of the dangers of texting while walking in parallel with distracted driving.
How to Control Your Tech Use
Is texting while walking dangerous to your health? Physically, well, there’s the case of pedestrian-related incidents. Mentally, sure. Distracted walking is a new area of research. But if experts agree that constantly ‘twalking’ could be a sign of tech addiction, then it’s safe to say that being glued to our smartphone screens all the time is not safe.
To take control of your tech use, here are some habits you can practice:
- Ask yourself if checking your device is of the utmost importance.
- Put your device in your bag instead of your pocket to make it harder to pull out.
- Put the volume low when wearing earphones outside.
- Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone to avoid distractions.
Lastly, it helps to set your priorities straight. If you think that app is doing more harm than good to your physical or mental health, do yourself a favor and click that Uninstall button. Thank me later.