Social distancing… from our phones!

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“In a world of coronavirus and contact tracing, our mobile devices have become a tool in dealing with the virus and to be effective, our phones must be with us, not in a different building a few kilometres away,” writes columnist EDDIE WILLIAMS.  

HOW often are you separated from your smartphone? Sure, you might leave it in a different room sometimes, but do you ever leave the house without it?

Eddie Williams

For me, the only time I leave without my phone is when I’m going for a swim, mainly because it’s tricky to take calls doing backstroke. And partly to prevent theft (although my phone is quite old and really not worth rifling through my backpack for).

When I’m in the water, I’m trying to forget about everything else that might be going on in life and I figure there’s no point taking my mobile with me for that. 

You don’t want to get in the pool straight after reading a work-related email, because you’ll find yourself thinking about work while you swim. And you don’t want to get out of the pool and be confronted by a barrage of missed calls, just when you’ve started to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. So when I’m swimming, the phone stays home.

But when visiting my local pool, (partially) re-opened recently, I was asked to scan a QR code on the way in.

When I told the woman at the desk that I didn’t have my phone on me, she gave me a confused look. She then gave me a paper form to fill out, like the ones most restaurants now have.

Judging by the look on her face, I thought she was baffled that anyone could bear to be away from their social-media feeds and messages. But on reflection, perhaps she was right to be surprised. Not having my phone meant I couldn’t scan the QR code, and it also meant that the Covid Safe app thought I was in my bedroom, not at the pool.

On my next visit, I did bring my phone, but I also renewed my membership. Now I can just scan a pass when I visit. But in a world of coronavirus and contact tracing, our mobile devices have become a tool in dealing with the virus. For that tool to be effective, our phones must be with us, not in a different building a few kilometres away. 

If the technology makes a difference in stopping or slowing the spread of COVID-19, then obviously that’s a good thing. But I suspect our minds might be better off if we could stay more than 1.5 metres away from our smartphones – just every now and then.

Eddie Williams is an award-winning producer at 2CC. 

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