My dad loved gadgets. He died in 1987, just before the first SXSW festival. A home computer then was the IBM PS2. A mobile phone in 1987 would have been the Nokia Cityman 900, which weighed more than a pound-and-a-half and had no video screen. The battery would let you talk for almost an hour before it had to be recharged. TV back then was black-and-white.

My dad didn’t have either a computer or a mobile phone. I didn’t grow up with them either. I’m from that magical generation that grew up spending summers outside with no sunscreen or cell phones, just riding bikes, goofing off, playing with friends or hanging out at the beach.

“Just be home by the time the streetlights came on,” my mom always pleaded. There was no way for her to reach us easily, and mostly she only had a vague idea of where we were.
But in my lifetime, we’ve seen the United States put a man on the moon and a moron in the White House.

We’ve gone from being out of touch most of the time — our only “phone” mounted on the wall, with a fairly short cord keeping us nearby if we wanted to use it, and having to dial 1 for “long distance” but only seven digits for most local calls — to having more computing power in the small cell phones than they had on Apollo 11.

The internet our phones connect us to contains almost the sum total of all of human knowledge. It’s a mini TV that can show us almost anything we want to see.

These tiny handheld computers have changed the way we consume media and process information — and the way we connect to one another.

Not long ago in my home, we turned over many of our more mundane chores to Google Home. It plays music and talk radio stations, turns lights on and off, handles the thermostat and a ton more. We can also interact with Google via my phone. I’m continually amazed by all it can do!

But as my mom often said, “There is a time and a place for everything.”

I like to ride my road bike for exercise. I ride around a lakeside trail in Coppell. It’s a multi-use trail, used by pedestrians and cyclists alike.

I marvel constantly at the number of people who are walking around a tranquil lake full of egrets and ducks, the sky ablaze with the brilliant colors of sunset. But they don’t even notice, because they have their eyes glued to the screens of their phones.

It’s getting to be an epidemic, and it’s getting dangerous.

I almost collided with one such woman, who was walking and not paying attention. I was on the far right side of the trail doing about 15 mph; she was walking towards me, her eyes riveted to her phone. Not looking where she was going, she veered towards me. I hit my bell, and she looked up at the last second, barely avoiding a collision.

But did she put the phone away? Nope.

I was in the Coppell post office, and a woman waiting in line behind me was talking on her phone. Personally, I think yakking on the phone in a retail setting is the epitome of rudeness.

Then she left and returned with a second phone!

I’m not sure why she needed two phones, but overhearing her conversation wasn’t hard as she told the person on the other end of the conversation that she had to go to her car and get her cell phone.

Five times. She told them about it five times. No exaggeration.

I remember the Pokémon Go fad, too — people losing their minds, eyes glued to their phones as they stumbled about erratically, trying their best to “catch them all.”

What a great idea that was!

Look, I carry a phone like the rest of the world. But it spends most of its day in my purse. It’s more of a tool than a companion; I’m partial to human interaction.

And I marvel at so many of the millennials that can’t seem to go 10 seconds without checking their phone. For what? People in the supermarket on the phone, oblivious to what’s around them. I even saw a woman on a bike texting!

Please! Enough! Put Down The Phone!

We are killing each other in cars with distracted driving, and we are becoming socially isolated. Twitter is no substitute for a real conversation, people!

Texting can’t convey facial expression or tone of voice. And don’t start with me about emojis as a replacement. I really believe that our phones, tablets and what-not are in no small part responsible for the divide in our country. Social media is great at dehumanizing and anonymous chatter.

I think the “Mean Tweets” segment that Jimmy Kimmel does on his Jimmy Kimmel Live show is genius. It illustrates that there are people who can be hurt by words carelessly typed into a phone — words that the tweeter would probably never have the guts to say to their face.

And dining out has become a frustrating experience of either overhearing others’ phone conversations or watching a table of four people not talking to each other because they are in their own little phone world.

That makes me sad. One of the better solutions I’ve heard is to all sit down at the table and each person place their phone face down on the table stacking one phone on top of the other. The rule of the game? First person to touch their phone picks up the check. I think my dad would have liked that.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at