A few weeks ago I undertook a daring experiment: I went without my iPhone for seven whole days.
It was a big deal for me. I’m 23, and I’ve been attached to a mobile phone since shortly after I started walking.
The first thing I noticed that phoneless week was just how many people stare at their phones all day. I never noticed that before because I was looking at my phone, too.
The first morning I started my experiment was a Tuesday, so I joined the morning rush on the subway.
I felt like an alien, staring straight ahead at a series of bent necks and earbuds. The sounds of “Candy Crush” — a popular phone game — filled the train car, and I couldn’t even listen to music to drown it out.
Once I arrived at my office, the elevator was the same story. As soon as the doors opened, all the screens came out.
Out of sheer boredom, I tried to make small talk while waiting for the elevator. That’s something I never do. Usually my phone is more interesting to me than other people.
But perhaps most startling was the realisation that so many people look at their phones while they are walking. The weekday New York footpaths are almost like that scene from “Wall-E,” an animated science fiction movie.
It felt a little dangerous, with so many people paying so little attention to where they are walking, not to mention the traffic streaming by them. We’re really distracted by our screens.
Jack Nasar, a professor emeritus at the University of Ohio who studies phone use, found that people on their phones are 48% more likely to walk unsafely into oncoming traffic in a 2008 study, highlighted by NPR.
And in a 2015 study, Conrad Earnest, an exercise scientist at Texas A&M University, sent 30 people through a course designed to mimic city footpaths and streets — both with their phones, and without.
Earnest found that people who texted while walking moved more slowly and veered off their paths more than screen-free walkers. However, that didn’t necessarily result in more accidents, according to NPR.
So if I learned anything over my phoneless week, it’s simply to look where I’m going when I’m walking. Besides, people-watching can be more fun than texting.