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Technology and Common Sense

With all the technology available to us today – iPods, smartphones, camcorders, portable computers – it is not hard to imagine people fully immersing themselves in their gadgets and various forms of media. But is technology causing people to become too self-absorbed? We asked readers this question in our Question of the Week. I would like to address this issue from another angle. Technology is giving people another excuse not to use common sense.

One doesn’t have to look far to see examples of this. Take the seemingly never-ending problem of mobile phone usage in vehicles. Numerous studies have documented the correlation between vehicular accidents and talking on a mobile phone, and many states have enacted laws prohibiting hand-held mobile phone use while driving. While the laws have had some impact, I still see too many people driving and using hand-held phones. Worse yet, the problem has gone beyond drivers merely talking on phones to drivers text messaging, particularly when stopped at intersections or in slow traffic. As texting requires one to divert his or her attention off the road, it is all too obvious these drivers pose a danger to themselves and others.

In New York City where I live and work, the lack of common sense among technology users is even more visible. With Blackberries and other smartphones becoming ubiquitous, I routinely see pedestrians with their eyes glued to their devices walking down crowded streets, oblivious to passing pedestrians, sidewalk obstacles, and worse - oncoming vehicular traffic. I understand the world is a faster moving, more connected place. But does it make sense for someone to endanger himself/herself and others just to “stay connected”?

The obsession with technology even occurs in situations where people are face to face. One of my friends related to me the story of his 20 year-old son exchanging text messages with a date in a diner, even though both were sitting less than five feet apart at the same table. It was obviously a bad date where neither person was comfortable with the other and there was little verbal communication. But really, is text messaging going to overcome bad chemistry in a face-to-face interpersonal situation?

And of course, there’s the age-old problem of people yapping on their mobile phones in public. I’m sure most of you have been subjected to someone on a bus, in a store, movie theater, or restaurant talking off the top of his or her lungs, giving myriad details about a business or personal situation that some of us do not want to hear about. What good does it accomplish for someone to loudly vent in public when no one cares and will likely not give any sympathy?

I could go on, but you get the picture. Modern technology is wonderful and can do a lot, but people allow their lack of common sense to lead them to misuse their gadgets and gizmos. What are your thoughts? Feel free to respond to our Question of the Week, or respond below.