Texting while walking can be a challenging task. It involves both cognitive and physical resources, as stated by Robert Volcic, an assistant professor of psychology at New York University Abu Dhabi. According to him, there are at least three types of effects induced by this habit.
First, is reduced walking stability.
Volcic explained: “People keep their head inclined forwards to read the display, while at the same time try to keep the phone stable. The normal pattern of movement of the limbs is modified leading to an increased postural sway, reduced walking speed and a general decrease in balance and stability.”
Second, is reduced awareness of their surrounding. When people stare at their phones, they tend to miss most of what is going on around them. “It is like being partially blind,” Volcic said.
The last issue is cognitive distraction. When people are engaged in two tasks simultaneously, the performance in at least one is degraded. In this case, texting is usually prioritised over monitoring the surrounding environment.
Volcic said: “People are, thus, a hazard for themselves and to others. For example, if they inadvertently bump into a child or an older person, who as a result falls on the ground and gets injured.”
Dr Lama Toufiq Sharbek, a specialist ophthalmologist based in Dubai, explained that when a person concentrates on the screen of a mobile phone, the eye muscles work to focus on it.
Spending more than 10 minutes staring at the screen, or any object in close proximity, adjusts the eye muscles to this range and if a person suddenly looks up, everything appears blurry.
She said: “It will take the eyes a few seconds to adjust, thus causing blurred vision. For people above the age of 40 years, the muscles become weaker and take longer to adjust. It could take more than a minute for this process and till then, their vision remains blurry and they may feel dizzy.”
People concentrating on their phones will also experience dry eyes. According to a study published in the US-based journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the average person blinks 15-20 times per minute. But, Dr Sharbek explains that when we focus on closer objects, we don’t blink enough number of times and this causes the eyes to dry up.
“When people look up then, they have to blink several times for their vision to clear,” she added.