Opinion: Put the Phones Down

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These days, it seems as though everyone is on his or her phone at all times…on the train, at the movies, in the restaurant.

Case in point:  Commuters in San Francisco didn’t notice a man wielding a gun several times on a crowded train. The reason? The passengers were too busy on their smartphones and tablets to notice, according to surveillance video of the incident that took place last month.

And I totally believe it. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Chicago three months ago is that 9 out of 10 people have their heads down, completely engrossed in their devices and utterly oblivious to the outside world.

Admittedly, I’ll quickly scan my email in the morning and briefly scroll through my Instagram feed. But then I’m settling into whatever book or magazine I’m reading at the time.

It’s as much about me being “old school” as it is about wanting to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I can’t notice a crazy person coming up on me if I have my headphones on rocking out to Beyonce while playing Candy Crush.

It’s common sense, people. If you’re paying too much attention to your smartphone, it makes you susceptible to theft and other crimes.

“Oftentimes when you interview people who get their phones stolen, when you ask them to describe where the person came from, what he was wearing, they have no idea,” police chief Greg Suhr told The Associated Press.

Sadly, the story of the gunman on the train does not have a happy ending. Nikhom Thephakaysone, the man with gun in the video, was charged with killing Justin Valdez, a San Francisco State University, student as he exited the train on Sept. 23.

Just think…Valdez could still be alive today if someone, anyone, had noticed the man with the gun.

So please put the phone down for a few minutes. Enjoy the scenery or strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Just make sure you’re aware of what’s going on around you at all times. It could save your life.