Is this a good replacement for face-to-face conversations?

A young woman texting on her smartphone while pushing a grocery cart in the aisle of Floyd’s Food Lion t-boned my cart the other day.

She didn’t stop, say “sorry” or even acknowledge her actions.  Too busy texting with someone.

Not surprising.  A study by YouGov.com says many young people seldom have their smartphones out of their hands.

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, in a case involving cell phone privacy, noted that the phones are so prominent in society now that “the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

A study by YouGov Omnibus says over half of millennials keep their phones in their hands throughout the day.

When asked what they wanted most out of the phones, those surveyed said “make them more durable.”

Maybe keeping a smartphone stuffed in the back pocket of a tight pair of jeans is not the best place, even though surveys saw that is also a popular place for young women to keep their phones (when they are not holding them).

As a basketball game earlier this year, I noticed that many of the young fans in the stands were occasionally watching the athletic contests while more often staring at their smartphones and texting.

“Maybe they’re sexting,” said a fellow photographer, laughing while referring to the use of the phones to talk about raunchy things or share nude photos.

Traffic accidents studies show increased wrecks from drivers who are texting behind the wheel.  Teens playing Pokemon on their smartphones while walking on streets have wandered into traffic and died.  A young Pokemon player slammed into a police car in Baltimore.

“College students tell me they know how to look someone in the eye and type on their phones at the same time, their split attention undetected,” writes Sherry Turkle in the New York Times. “They say it’s a skill they mastered in middle school when they wanted to text in class without getting caught. Now they use it when they want to be both with their friends and, as some put it, ‘elsewhere.'”

She adds:

One 15-year-old I interviewed at a summer camp talked about her reaction when she went out to dinner with her father and he took out his phone to add “facts” to their conversation. “Daddy,” she said, “stop Googling. I want to talk to you.” A 15-year-old boy told me that someday he wanted to raise a family, not the way his parents are raising him (with phones out during meals and in the park and during his school sports events) but the way his parents think they are raising him — with no phones at meals and plentiful family conversation. One college junior tried to capture what is wrong about life in his generation. “Our texts are fine,” he said. “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.”

Some questions to ask:

— Are you distracted by your phone?

— Are phones getting in the way of having real face-to-face conversations? Do you find yourself — or others — reading texts or Googling instead of really paying attention?

— Do you ever get annoyed by others when they’re not fully paying attention to you because they’re looking at their phone?

— Does the way you, your friends and your family use phones in social settings hurt the conversation? Ms. Turkle writes, “Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel.” Do you find yourself investing less into a conversation, or keeping the conversation light, when a phone is out?

— Do ever make a choice not to carry your phone all the time? Do you keep it away from the dinner table or certain social events? Do you ever turn it off so you can think and be with your own thoughts? Does your family have any rules about using phones?

One more thought: Please put away your phone while grocery shopping.  Carts can be dangerous weapons.

Driving while texting. Too dangerous.