「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Look up, look out

By Tan Ying Zhen


Recently, a video has been making the rounds on my social media feed. It shows a young lady looking down at her phone as she crosses a road. The green man is blinking. A car hurtles towards her but she doesn't see it. The car knocks her down.

Online comments are largely unsympathetic. Most think she shouldn't have been looking at her phone while crossing the road, even though she had the right of way. Many shared stories of people they'd seen similarly engrossed in their phones and inconveniencing others, or worse, putting themselves at risk.

I confess, I'm sometimes guilty of it too. I often text as I walk, especially when I'm in a hurry to reply. As I focus on tapping out a message, I end up neglecting what's going on around me.

Perhaps all of us have done it, even though we find this behaviour annoying in others. Smart phone in hand, we text, play games, go through our social media feeds, stream videos, take photos, view our photos … The list goes on.

A group of university students in Singapore wanted to change this trend. They started a campaign called Look Up, Look Out. They wanted to encourage people to avert their gaze from their phone screens and pay more attention to what was going on around them.

Their website offers several suggestions: "Hold on to that thought. Continue updating your Facebook status when you've reached the other side of the road." "Pause that song. Whether it's a Billboard Top 50 or that indie band no one has heard of yet, trust us when we say you can't just shake it off if you get into an accident."

My favourite one is about how we don't have to reply to messages immediately. "Go ahead and annoy your friends a little longer. True friends can wait another minute while you cross the road safely."

In this age of instant gratification, waiting may seem like a waste of time. But as we try to save time by multi-tasking, we may end up neglecting those around us, or wasting opportunities to appreciate something beautiful.

A friend told me about a poignant scene she witnessed recently. At a restaurant, she saw a toddler trying to tell her mother something, but the mother couldn't tear her eyes away from her phone, much less pay attention to what her daughter was saying.

Another friend told me she'd seen a rainbow on her way home. "But no one else around me sees it because they are all looking at their phones!"

What do we miss in the time we spend staring at our phones? We may never know, unless we start to look up and look out.



The Japan Times ST: June 5, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版