Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Google's new Terms of Service - and an observation for our time

I must say, in this day of instant notoriety on social media, Google's new Terms of Service are comforting: it's good to know that it's possible to control who sees what I post (very helpful for people who might go off on a tirade that might considered ill-advised and that -- by Murphy's Law of Politics -- will inevitably surface during a future political campaign). It's also worth understanding that such control is possible, and taking care to make use of it.

But it's a sad commentary on our times, to see this notice as one of the three main points:  

Use your mobile devices safely

It’s just good common sense: Don’t use our services if you’re doing something that requires your full attention, like driving, and our services might distract you. And, of course, always follow the law while driving.

No kidding, Sherlock! What's sad about this is, years after the problem of driving while distracted by a mobile device was identified, and after the numerous cases since then that have caused death and serious injury, companies still have to remind people. I was intrigued when the owner's manual for my BlackBerry contained a similar warning, and included using it while walking as a potential hazard.
So true. Just yesterday, I had to do a Bobby Hull dipsy-doodle to get around a guy bearing down on me in a crosswalk, nose buried (figuratively) in his device. And how many times have we seen someone cross against a red light because they were engrossed in some badger-sputumly important text message or phone conversation? It`s funny in the opening sequence to the movie version of Guys and Dolls, when Frank Sinatra jaywalked while studying the Racing Form, cars screeching to a halt. But this is real life, and not everyone is a stunt driver, rehearsed and prepared to stop the car on the chalk marks when the star walks in front.
There's a deeper lesson here. This is real life, and we need our full attention to what's going on around us. We can't wander down the streets with our heads and minds diverted elsewhere. And if it's a text message or a phone call that's so important it can't wait another nanosecond, we need to give it our undivided attention, as well. But look at how many things are going on around us that we need to pay attention to -- like a 7.2 earthquake in the Philippines, bomb blasts at LAX, homelessness, drugs, corruption, or society spinning out of control like a border collie on a triple espresso. If we spend our lives escaping into the wonderful world of texts, games and phone calls, we're going to miss something big -- and then wonder why we didn't get the memo.

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