Public transit is the perfect place to observe a city’s human interaction, or in the case of Toronto, the lack of it. Being a daily commuter and active pedestrian, there is one particular thing I observe every single day in the city of Toronto, any time of the day: everyone is glued to their phones. Texting, scrolling, swiping, reading, talking, Vine-ing. In most cases, this is all done while walking, which evidently impairs our vision to what’s around.
I admit: I’ve been guilty of constant-phone-update behaviour until I bumped into a cyclist and nearly caused her to fall over because I was too distracted texting weekend plans that could have easily waited until I got home. Feeling guilty and embarrassed, I vowed never to walk & text because let’s face it, whatever it is that we’re urgently doing on our phones – it could always wait. People managed perfectly fine without it for centuries so why should we feel an obligation or worse, a need, to always be connected to something or someone all the time?
Since adopting my new socially responsible habit of leaving my phone in my bag while walking, I’ve re-connected with real life which is more “real time” than any newsfeed popping up on Facebook. During my technology-free city strolls, that’s when I noticed the city’s interaction: welcoming, inviting, inspirational, friendly, bright messages scattered on windows, walls, billboards, sidewalks or fences. The city is saying hello, and we’re missing out.
There is much more to see and capture and appreciate outside of that 5-inch perimeter of a screen. Something as simple as coming across a message or image that makes you smile or laugh could be enough to lighten up your day and make you appreciate the simple things that we oftentimes ignore in our busy virtual world.
If we all just put away our phones and looked ahead, we would capture some sort of beauty in something, or in someone, that we would otherwise miss if we had been glued to our phones. Whatever that beauty is – a sunset reflecting off a window, a father teaching his toddler how to walk, two young lovers in embrace, a passerby smiling at you, a dog happily running through a sprinkler. Whatever that glimpse of beauty you find, it gives you comfort in realizing that you are constantly surrounded by it if you just took the time to look. It’s no longer something you’ll need to search for on Google.