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Social media - if you don't look it can't hurt you

14 May 2015

Unfriended

Today, more women drive and drive more. I am not about to fall into the trap of discussing whether it’s men or women who are the better drivers. That would be perpetuating stereotypes and consolidating inequalities. However, I have uncovered a couple of interesting facts around driver behaviour, and a new movie called, Unfriended (pictured above), and I have noticed that despite laws forbidding the use of mobiles without the use of hands-free accessories while driving - and the increased risk of horrific accidents associated with having your eyes off the road as you text, etc. - there seems to be a lot of phone action going on among young drivers.

Mobiles And Driving

“One in five men (21 per cent) admits they often use their mobile phone without hands-free accessories while driving versus one in six women or 16 per cent.” (Source: 2007 AAMI Crash Index)

The finding doesn’t surprise me but I think the number has grown in the past eight years. In my drive to work, for example, I’d be guaranteed to see 3 or 4 people using their phones and driving. Just the other day I watched a young driver texting while driving.  

Technically, I suppose she wasn’t driving. She was stopped at lights and rather than move when the lights went green and because she was still texting, she remained stationary until she finished. For the drivers backed up behind her – her attitude seemed to be, ‘who cares?’ And certainly when a few cars bipped her, her hand gesture backed up the ‘attitude’.

Again, according to AAMI’s Crash Index: Women are more likely than men to think drivers are becoming more aggressive – 94 per cent versus 88 per cent.

I’m going to agree - road rage is on the rise across the board. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to brake suddenly to avoid rear-ending what mostly seem to be young women as they nip in from the next lane their indicator barely having time to blink - and all because things aren’t moving fast enough for them. Many times they’re on the phone - probably to the person sitting next to them. That last comment is probably a little harsh, but in every public space now, you’ll see people staring and stabbing at their screens. It’s an epidemic, an obsession. No one looks out the window any more, and fewer and fewer of us seem to be watching the road. To be unconnected, out of range or without a functioning mobile device makes us anxious. If they ring or ping or buzz or light up, we respond, worried we’ll miss out if we don’t.

It’s so contradictory – we moan about not having any time and yet by choosing to be logged on and always available we never get a moment’s peace. It’s similar to cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying requires you to take part. Think about it. You have to logon and be connected to see and experience the bullying. The power of the bullying is in the fact that no one is willing to unplug themselves from the action and so short circuit its power. Who among us, and especially adolescents, has the ‘self’ control not to look, even though we know that looking hands the bullies the power.

It’s why, I reckon, this new horror movie, Unfriended, I’ve been reading about is dragging in millions. Since its opening on April 17, the movie has grossed more than $31 million. Not bad for a movie that cost around $1million to make. Unfriended calls itself a horror thriller about cyber bullies and their victims. In this case, the victim returns to haunt the minds and machines of her tormentors.

Based on the American found footage genre, similar to The Blair Witch Project, like all horror movies Unfriended works because the characters never listen when you scream at the screen, ‘don’t go out there’, or, in this case, ‘don’t logon, don’t look’. The teenage protagonists can’t disconnect from the horror. Why? Because they can’t not look.

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