Portrait of young inattentive girl, distracted by mobile phone. Girl crashed into street post, dropped phone.
Portrait of young inattentive girl, distracted by mobile phone. Girl crashed into street post, dropped phone.

How your phone is making you an idiot

If ever a device was inappropriately named, it's the smart phone.

Since the advent of the first iPhone a mere 12 years ago, users have looked anything but clever.

Americans still insist on calling them cell phones - presumably because of their ability to zap brain cells.

Take the lady spotted driving south of Brisbane this week with neither hand on her car's steering wheel, and both on her phone.

Hopefully nobody ever sends her a text letting her know the state government intends to fine people $1000 for the offence. The shock could send her spinning off the road.

She's far from the only one. A driver was photographed in Sydney last year allowing his passenger to steer while he used both hands to text. Another was seen using their mobile phone to watch TV while hurtling along.

Then there are the many young people taking selfies while they drive. RACQ research reveals one in three teenage drivers have done it. It's such a phenomenon it even has its own name, the 'carfie'. Predictably enough, the 'carfie' all too often becomes the 'crashfie'.

The disease is affecting pedestrians too. Head pointed downwards towards their screen, they can often be seen stepping lemming-like onto roadways without looking.

Or walking into poles, walls and trees, even off piers.

It's all very amusing until you read that 176 pedestrians were killed in Australia in the last financial year, many of them because they were distracted by their devices.

The hazards of texting and walking.
The hazards of texting and walking.

Others have also been killed falling off cliffs. Until the advent of the smartphone people tended to keep a safe distance from cliff edges. If they did go close, they at least looked forward.

Nowadays, there appears a depressing trend of not only getting ever closer to the drop, but doing so with one's back to the precipice, in the hopes of garnering a photograph deemed worthy of Instagram. Inevitably, tragic accidents sometimes result.

Smartphones are also credited with doing enormous damage to our ability to spell, or be civil to one another - traits that are often combined.

Some people appear to think little of hurling the most egregious insults at total strangers via the media of Twitter or Facebook. But they do so with such rank illiteracy that ripostes regarding their cognitive abilities inevitably follow.

It's all a bit harsh - these people's faculties have probably been impaired by blows to the head from walking into doors and poles.



A post on a Gold Coast community page selling weed openly along with a phone number.
A post on a Gold Coast community page selling weed openly along with a phone number.


Smartphone idiocy does have its upsides, though.

Bone-headed social media posts made by candidates in the recent Federal election arguably helped voters avoid the mistake of giving them their preferences.

One fellow was even found to have shared a post claiming the world is being run by a secret ­society of Jewish shapeshifting lizards.

The compulsion felt by so many people to share their every thought and action on social media has also been of great assistance to police.

Smartphones, the biggest drug of all.
Smartphones, the biggest drug of all.

The Bulletin this week revealed how Gold Coast police have discovered drug dealers openly posting about their activities online.

The biggest drug, however, is the one in their pockets. An average 140g of pure addiction. An opiate regularly consumed by nine out of ten adults. A drug that, like all others, that can be highly dangerous to one's health and one's mind, and makes its dealers windfall profits.

The so-called smart phone, which actually makes so many of us not just look like fools, but act like them too.

Scientific studies are beginning to make the link. One from the University of Texas says smartphones are "reducing available cognitive capacity."

Co-author Assistant Professor Adrian F Ward said constant interruption from phones were causing a "brain drain". The researchers suggested intervals of "separation".

A number of recent studies have also revealed that IQ scores, which had been rising for decades, have gone into reverse.

We can speculate about the reasons, but the rise of the smartphone is a prime suspect.

Perhaps the smartest thing we can do, with our smartphones, is every now and then, just switch them off.