Dear Action Line: Million-dollar idea for a new phone app: One that would take a 360-degree movie of your surroundings as you “blindly” walk along looking down at your cellphone. When you get back home, you can see what you missed: cars that swerved around you, that beautiful person trying to catch your eye, the mountain lion that was stalking you, the falling star or amazing sunset. – Looking Up
Dear Looking Up: Action Line cannot believe that you are just “blindly” pitching this brilliant idea without first having secured a patent. But the cat’s out of the bag, and in this case, it might be a cougar skulking along Florida Road.
Walking while texting, webbing, Instagraming, etc., has become a serious thing. Like, deadly serious. National Safety Council statistics show that pedestrian fatalities, after trending down from 1994 to 2009, rose markedly from then to 2019. At least some of the blame is pointed at distracted walking.
A university study showed that those using cellphones while walking are 61% more likely to veer off course. And that’s a great way to use this proposed app: Just back up the video and see where you got off track.
For another perspective, Action Line turned to our friend Brian Burke, professor of psychology at Fort Lewis College. He came up with a name: The “Accurate FOMO” app.
“Psychological research clearly shows that cellphone usage is an ever-expanding source of human distraction,” Burke wrote in an email, presumably from the safety of a chair in an office. “For example, using your phone while driving yields a fourfold increase in car accidents – equivalent to driving with your blood-alcohol content above the legal limit.”
Then Burke went over the line, suggesting that we might be able to survive without our phones temporarily. He also blew Action Line’s mind by talking about “happiness research.” Turns out there is a Journal of Happiness Studies, as well as a Happiness Research Institute. But who’s going to let something so silly overshadow FOMO?
“Happiness research reveals that our well-being goes up when we put our devices and social media accounts away for a day or two,” Burke said, obviously ignorant of modern living priorities.
Burke emphasized the concept of mindfulness – “being fully aware in the present moment” – and how this “mindfulness” might reduce stress and anxiety. Apparently, he believes that putting away one’s cellphone and paying attention to one’s surroundings is part of this mindfulness thing. Action Line, however, believes that “mindfulness” is likely just another government conspiracy, kind of like the bird drones we discussed last week.
COVID-19 has drastically reduced our in-person interactions over the past two years, Burke said, making it even more critical to talk to people when opportunities arise. “My students used to even (gasp) converse with each other before class as they arrived early, whereas nowadays they are typically buried in their own devices.”
But take heart, Durangoans: Smartphone usage is lower in smaller towns compared with large urban areas, partly because of connectivity issues, according to the Pew Research Center. (Pew, by the way, has a research topic labeled “Happiness & Life Satisfaction.”)
So, text and walk at your own peril, and know that on the horizon is technology that might save you: Smart cars that will detect and not mow you down.
Dear Action Line: Long ago, sometime in the mental black hole that was 2020-21, there was a story about possible plans for Durango and other Western Slope communities to collaborate on testing wastewater for COVID. I’ve been hearing more about that technique recently, on the Front Range and elsewhere, as communities try to stay ahead of the omicron variant. What happened to the Western Slope project? – Looking for the Scoop on Poop
Dear Scoop: Action Line didn’t know this was a thing, but it is. San Juan Basin Public Health is looking for partners in a wastewater monitoring program here, said Chandler Griffin, communications director. The lead agency in Colorado for this project is the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
“SJBPH is actively connecting our municipal partners with CDPHE in the hope that the state will bring this program to our region soon,” he said. “We will continue to update the community if and when the state is able to introduce this program in our region.”
So don’t bury the poop project yet.
Email questions and suggestions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Abbreviation key for the texting-challenged: FOMO = fear of missing out.