Text this!

Ontario is the most recent province to implement laws to prevent drivers from texting, dialing or talking on their mobile phone while driving. The new hands-free law in Ontario took effect Oct. 26, and Manitoba’s is coming in 2010, but the necessity of the laws begs the questions — why do we need so desperately to text, call and chat while we drive?

We live in the age of information, the digital age, affectionately nicknamed the iGeneration. We receive instant gratification for our social efforts with instant messaging, email and cellular phones. It’s almost funny to think about the handwritten letter as a way of communication; it’s more of a novelty or hobby now. Answering machines are almost useless — certainly you are able to get a hold of a person through some wave of current communication. But what happens when that person doesn’t text you back right away? You panic, or you’re upset, you can’t believe they wouldn’t text you back right away. Who do they think they are? In all seriousness though, why are individuals under the impression that they are obligated to sign up for Facebook? It doesn’t even appear to be a matter of choice, but rather you become socially outcast and isolated outside of this virtual world. And how did the Blackberry become necessary outside of the corporate elite?

Welcome to the age of impatience, of over-stimulation — welcome to Text-topia.
Officers in Toronto were handing out information packets on the new legislation banning texting and driving, but come February tickets will be issued with penalties of up to $500. It’s a ticket that has encouraged many Ontarians to purchase Bluetooth devices. Best Buy saw a dramatic increase in sales for October with the pressure being put on people to switch over to hands-free devices. Yet, Google the story and you’ll find images of Toronto drivers on their cell phones, still multi-tasking like any good citizen of Text-topia.

Many of us have seen the commercials — texting increases the risk of a crash. That hasn’t stopped me from texting while at a stop light, heck, it hasn’t stopped me from texting while driving on the Perimeter highway on my way to campus. For those of you that I may be frightening and you’re hoping I will mention what type of vehicle I drive so you can avoid me, avoiding all green F150s isn’t going to help you much. The driver next to you is sending a tweet from his Blackberry, the van in front of you is checking his friend’s photos on Facebook and behind you someone is sending a mass text to all her friends. It simply cannot be avoided. Everyone and their dog is texting.

Why do we do this though? Why do we feel it is necessary to share every detail of our lives with every individual we know? It’s a stalker’s dream and a driver’s nightmare. Yet still I have a tweet updating me that my friend is struggling between the choice of McNuggets or a Big Mac. Honestly, this information has not enriched my life. I do not feel fulfilled because I know this. Perhaps, we are all striving for some false sense of celebrity. In an attempt to feel important, to feel like we’re a part of something bigger, we update people on our every movement because we assume that they care, or at least should. We’re all narcissists, every tweeter and ‘booker is just another person striving for the acceptance of others.

We’ve all lulled ourselves into the illusion that other people care what we’re doing and where we are. But do you care that your friend is currently sitting on their deck with a cold one? Likely not any more than they care that you’re falling asleep in class but found the energy to update your status. We grip our cell phones like they’re life support. There is no feeling worse than the constant state of panic when you leave your cell phone on top of your dresser and head out the door. What if you need to call someone? What if someone is trying to get a hold of you? But what’s worse . . . what if you get home to find not a single soul cared enough to text you for a whole day?

We need to feel connected. Texting and driving is just another way to make us feel like we’re so in demand we need to stay connected even while we’re on the go. We have to risk that increased chance of an accident — we’re just thinking of our fans, I mean, friends. Ontario just implemented this law in October, and Manitoba could follow suit shortly. How will you ever survive?