Texting while walking is a style risk, too.
There are lots of ways I avoid human interaction in public. One of them is using my phone while I’m out and about. That way, I can stare at cute cats on Instagram while avoiding eye contact with strangers at the same time.
But while I think I look cool and collected, science says I actually look like a big derp.
A study published last year in the Journal of Motor Behavior aimed to discover what happens when healthy adults multitask while walking. The study’s researchers observed 22 people (all of whom were in good shape) tapping away on their phones while walking on treadmills at self-selected speeds. The scientists recorded the subjects’ kinetic, kinematic and spatial parameters while they walked. They found that while multitasking didn’t impact the speed with which people used their phones, it did increase the width of their stride, their “peak knee flexion” and their “peak plantarflexion (foot flexation).” They also found that walking and texting decreased the range of motion of subjects’ knees and ankles.
In other words, the study found that when you’re walking and using your phone, you look like a gigantic flailing noodle.
It’s like your body is trying to send you a message that you’re being stupid by making you look really stupid.
And it makes sense: When there’s Pokémon to catch and Snapchat filters to admire yourself with, you become totally immersed in your phone — and you lose awareness of your surroundings. I’ve bumped into walls, lampposts and other people while using my phone on the go. Worse, I’ve nearly killed myself by stepping into oncoming traffic. Multiple times.
But there are degrees of stupidity when it comes to using your phone while strolling around town. “While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can’t see the path in front of you,” said Dietrich Jehle, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo. Between uneven sidewalks and random crap on the streets, there’s always something for clumsy people (like me) to trip on. So it might be better to just call that person you’re texting so urgently while walking.
In 2010, an estimated 1,500 people had to go to the emergency room for injuries that happened while they were using their phones and walking. As we use mobile apps more and more in our everyday lives, that number will only increase.
Lawmakers in states like New Jersey, New York and Hawaii consider pedestrian-phone-use to be so bad that they’re trying to outlaw it. One law that was recently proposed in New Jersey, for example, says you could go to jail for 15 days if you so much as look at your phone while crossing the street. Seriously.
Maybe we really do need some kind of ordinance to keep us off Instagram when we’re out and about — whether it’s an official punishment or just the social one of looking like a lame derp in public.
In fact, maybe the fear of looking like a loser is a better motivation to put my phone away when I’m walking. That way, maybe I’ll actually have a Valentine’s Date this year.