Cell phones annoying, says science

Cellular phone technology has come under scrutiny in recent years — meaning, since it has come into popular use — by technophobes and technostress victims alike. Despite being evidently harmless, innumerable claims of it causing cancer, tinnitus, headaches, and any number of non-specific symptoms have emerged such that many scientific studies have been undertaken to show that they could actually cause issues in human beings. Aside from heating water and thus living tissue, until now, no definitive study has actually stated outright that the cranks postulating cancers are full of it. At least, if you’re willing to discount this meta-analysis I reported on a while back, anyway. Said meta-analysis, while it says every study up til now has shown absolutely no link between cancer and cell phone use, it doesn’t actually call the cranks positing the link over and over again “full of it”, so I guess it gets a pass.

So imagine my surprise when The Atlantic ran a post stating, “Cell phones are more annoying than they are dangerous“. Pretty much exactly what I thought.

More specifically, The Atlantic rebuts the idea that cell phones cause cancer, that they cause crashes, and that teens are engaging in all sorts of “sexting” whilst unsupervised. You know, the trifecta. However, cell phone usage is not without its disadvantages.

So if cell phones are not responsible for the number of brain tumors, car accidents, and acts of teen deviance we once thought, can they no longer serve as the objects we love to hate? The answer, of course, is that they can, because they are still as annoying and distracting as ever.

Researchers have just reported that talking on cell phones while walking can lead to deficits in cognition, including working memory and executive function. When talking while walking, participants in the study had more trouble navigating to a physical goal than their cell-less counterparts. Texting while walking was even worse. The authors write that while text-walking, people moved more slowly, and had “61 percent increase in lateral deviation … and 13 percent increase in linear distance traveled.” In other words, cell phone use made people navigationally inept. This is, perhaps, not a surprising finding, but the authors do suggest that the combination of deficits due to cell phone use while walking may ultimately work to “compromise safety.”

So you’re free to go on hating that douchebag that’s holding up the coffee line while he’s having a conversation instead of ordering his latte. Doubly so, since it’s evidently less likely that he’s naturally selecting himself out of the gene pool by using the cell phone as much as he is.

Cell phones annoying, says science

3 thoughts on “Cell phones annoying, says science

  1. 1

    As Bob Park, Un. of Maryland physics professor, has pointed out, it is highly unlikely that cell phones could cause cancer because the radiation from them is non-ionizing.

  2. 2

    People who use cell phones know that they walk slower and less accurately while they’re texting or talking. They don’t care. I don’t care. I do it in places where I’m not going to run into anyone or anything, and allows me to accomplish two things at once. Communication and travel.

  3. 3

    People texting while walking and failing to look where they’re going is now an endemic problem here on campus. I’m waging a guerrilla campaign against it by stopping about ten feet in front of people who walk and text and letting them collide with me in order to make the point that it’s a Bad Idea.

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