Stoplights are a daily nuisance.
You’re running late for wherever you had to be three minutes ago, only to see the light you’re rapidly approaching turn to yellow. Pressing down on the gas pedal, the light suddenly turns to red, and you screech your tires to a stop right before entering the intersection.
At this point, some people grumble and wait impatiently for the light to turn green once again, glaring at the light box like it’s suddenly going to become scared and change colors just for you. However, many people see stoplights—no matter how inconvenient—as an opportunity to relax or accomplish things that they did not have time to do previously. Oftentimes, people begin to bank on getting stopped at a stoplight in order to accomplish morning activities, and they become frustrated on days where every light remains green on their journey.
I put on my socks at stoplights. Every morning, I grab a clean pair of socks and stuff them into my pocket before heading out the door. At the first stoplight I come to, I slip my foot out of my shoe, pull on one sock, and wiggle my foot back into my shoe. At the next stoplight, I put on the other sock. It is very frustrating when I arrive at either school or work with only one sock on, although doing so generally means that I am finally on time for something. Luckily, I am not the only one who has learned to take advantage of these mandatory pauses in my daily commute.
Many people like to daydream at stoplights, especially writers and musicians. What better a time to work on a new plot twist or new lyrics for your hit single than while stuck at a stoplight? You’re all alone with nothing else to do. That time might as well be spent for creative purposes.
Other people enjoy making their fellow drivers feel uncomfortable. “I like to stare at the people in the cars next to me!” reports Andy Brill. People-watching is a favorite pastime of many, especially since drivers seem to think they are invisible while in the confines of their car. How many people have you seen doing socially inappropriate behaviors—like picking their nose—while seated in their car? Most statisticians would bet that a high number of people have been caught in the act.
Still, there are some people who aren’t bothered by other drivers staring at them while engaged in any action other than staring straight ahead at the road. “I like to blast songs like ‘I Will Survive’ and sing along to them dramatically with all of the windows down!” admits Bryan Trujillo. “True story. There is a video of it on Facebook!”
Some are more concerned about mechanical issues while waiting for the light to change. “I try not to stall or burn out when the light turns green,” says Stefan Spaeth. “I drive a stick shift.” Similarly, Nathan Stholer’s manual vehicle plays a crucial role in waiting at stoplights, only he uses his as a boredom-killer rather than as a worry.
“I use the clutch to rock myself back and forth because I am impatient,” Stholer confesses.
The vast majority of people polled enjoy fiddling with their phones at stoplights. Sending text messages, creeping on Facebook and Twitter, checking e-mails, and playing Words With Friends are all fair game to help pass the time. “Why not send texts at stoplights?” laughs Miles Hockman. “The vehicle is stopped, so it’s not illegal. You’re just sitting there anyway.” Most people share Hockman’s sentiment, and I admit that I enjoy Tweeting at stoplights once my socks are firmly on my feet.
Interestingly enough, no one reported simply waiting for the light to change when asked on their individual stoplight behavior, perhaps lending credibility to the belief that adolescents and young adults have the inability to remain bored. Applying make-up, eating, meditating, and taking medication are all common ways to occupy one’s time when waiting at stoplight after stoplight.
The average American spends approximately one year waiting at stoplights over the course of their lifetime. It might as well be spent productively. So long as you are not harming anyone in the vehicles surrounding you—such as by exposing private areas of one’s body, drinking alcoholic beverages, or participating in any other criminal behavior that would get you arrested any other time—make stoplight time your time!
A study recently conducted by the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial Medical College concluded that young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who routinely engage in the use of Short Messaging Services (SMS) frequently develop uneasiness, anger, and sleeplessness as a result.
“The youths in the habit of texting SMS were falling prey to depression and fear,” says Dr. Sanjay Dixit, the Head of the Department at MGMMC Community Medicine. “Nearly 47 percent of females and 39 percent of males accepted that their text messaging habit hit their daily routine in some way. Around 60 percent of youths even feel that that habit is affecting their studies.”
MGMMC’s study showed that 40 percent of females and 45 percent of males do not enjoy sound sleep due to their SMS habits. Approximately 41 percent of those surveyed admit to compulsively checking their mobile phones for a reply after sending off a text message. This OCD-like anxiety has been labeled as “Textaphrenia” by psychiatrists and is becoming a growing concern in our society of increasing communication speeds and accessibility.
“I have this weird fear when people don’t message or text me back,” says 19-year-old Tim Armstrong of Louisville. “I worry that I accidentally said something really stupid or weird on accident while I wasn’t even thinking about it.” Armstrong would not go as far as to say that he was a Textaphrenic, but increasing numbers of youths report similar phenomena when it comes to not only texting but also to receiving comments, messages, and replies on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The study shows that 55 percent of youths become upset if there is no response to their text messages, and 32 percent feel dejected and presume that no one wished to communicate with them. Approximately 93 percent of SMS users become anxious if they do not receive a response within a reasonable period of time, the appropriate period of time depending on both the receiver and the sender’s normal response speed.
Related to Textaphrenia is Textiety, which is an anxious feeling caused by not sending or receiving text messages. Textiety is observed by most on a daily basis when youths are not allowed to use their mobile phones for 30 minutes or more and will try to sneak out a quick text message, becoming noticeably antsy when unable to do so.
Psychologists stress that Textaphrenia are both serious mental and physical disorders with symptoms that include anxiety, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem, and “repetitive thumb syndrome”.
Australian researcher Jennie Carroll of Melbourne’s RMIT University has also commented on the situation. “With Textaphrenia and Textiety, there’s the feeling that ‘No one loves me; no one’s contacted me. Binge texting can either reflect the delusion that you have more friends than you actually do or can be a cry for help.” One teenager surveyed in Carroll’s own survey was averaging 444 SMS messages per day.
Data released by Boost Mobile revealed that SMS use has increased by 89% since 2009. Mobile phone use has been such a large presence in the presence of today’s youths that many now feel anxious when their phones are not physically in their hands. An increasing number of youths and even adults find texting easier and more economical than making phone calls, leading to the rise in SMS.
The immediate physical effect of Textaphrenia is a condition known as “repetitive thumb syndrome”. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in those who frequently type on a computer or play video games, repetitive thumb syndrome occurs to those who frequently send SMS, especially on phones without a touch screen. The repetitive motion needed to strike the buttons causes the lubricating fluid between the tendons, shoulders, and wrists to dry out.
Some people believe that Textaphrenia is a made-up condition. “Did anyone know that cocaine or marijuana were addictive until people started getting addicted to them?” Carroll counters. “Similarly, Textaphrenia is in the initial stages now. The sooner we start quitting this addiction, the better.”