Screensucking

Michael Tchong Trends

Christmas 2015 was a beautiful day in San Diego. Joshua Burwell, a 33-year-old visiting from Sheridan, Ind., decided to hike Sunset Cliffs to watch the sunset. Witnesses noticed someone distracted by an “electronic device” seconds before Burwell plunged off the cliff. He was pronounced dead after paramedics arrived.

It was another example of the intoxicating spell our digital devices cast on us. The ability of our phone screens to literally suck us in is fueling the screensucking trend — a lifestyle habit that is distracting the world around us.

And it’s truly a global phenomenon. In China this past November, a surveillance camera captured a Chinese woman glued to her phone while ignoring her two-year-old daughter. A slow-moving S.U.V. then ran over the toddler, killing her.

Some of these bouts with distraction end well. In perhaps the first recorded incidence, a Japanese woman walked off a subway platform in 2007 while texting. In 2011, a 10-year-old Italian boy fell off a Milan train platform while playing on his Sony PSP.

But perhaps the most infamous screensucking incident that captured media attention worldwide was Cathy Cruz Marrero stumbling into in a shopping mall fountain while texting.


In 2011, Cathy Cruz Marrero famously fell into a shopping mall fountain while texting. A shopping mall spokesperson says a guard was fired in connection with the incident.

Screensucking is also to blame for causing Americans to sleep less. In the 1920s, the average person enjoyed 8.8 hours of sleep each night. Today, we sleep two hours less, or an average of 6.7 hours during the work week.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “emergency room visits involving distracted pedestrians using cellphones were up 124% in 2014 from 2010 — and up ten-fold from 2006.” Meanwhile, the latest AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index survey found that more than 40% of respondents admit they’ve used their phones while driving.

pedestrian signThe situation has gotten so bad that traffic signs are going up around the world to warn drivers about distracted pedestrians, like this one in Sweden. Of course this assumes that the driver will look up from his or her phone to notice the sign.

Will we ever be safe from all these screen diversions? Not unless we give up screensucking, which is highly unlikely.

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Michael Tchong

Michael Tchong
Michael Tchong is a professional people watcher and founder of four ahead-of-the-wave startups. He’s also a top-rated innovation and trends speaker, and an adjunct professor of innovation and social media at the University of San Francisco and UC Berkeley.

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