Texting and talking on the phone while driving / cycling / having dinner has become a nuisance to our safety and social manners. It’s clear to everyone by now how dangerous (and rude) this has become. But the problem is not going away and interestingly enough, pretty much everyone is guilty of it, regardless of their awareness. Which leads one to believe that there’s more behind this.
It comes down to the fact that we’re very social creatures and we seek connections with other people. Cells phones have enabled us remained connected to those we care for, thus giving us something so important from what is ingrained in us.
This strong force should be kept in mind when approaching policies to prevent texting or driving while talking. It is difficult to stop this behavior because of the incredible strong social force. Still, we can help people make better decisions when using this technology. Like to avoid talking on the phone when on local streets. Or to avoid getting into emotional conversations while on the go. Additionally, creative solutions are appearing for mobile devices to deal with texting and talking on the phone.
I do have one such idea: Consider an app phone combined with Google Voice (which can act as a digital personal secretary). Imagine setting your device to “car mode” (or have it automatically do this via a car dock or by detecting speed via GPS) or “dinner with family mode”. The mode would trigger Google Voice to intercept your calls with a message to inform your caller that this is a bad time before patching her through. It could send automatic responses to text messages. It could set away messages to your IM services and even shut off notifications. The technology is at hand and there’s quite a lot of potential in it. I expect we’ll see this sort of stuff within a couple of years, if not sooner.
Over time, social etiquette with texting will improve as it has for phone calls. Still, we mustn’t forget that the reason these tools have become such a dominant part of our lives is that it enhances the very human act of being social.