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Posted: February 19, 2013 9:48 p.m.

Tech disconnect: be smart with smartphones

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This is the car that crashed into The News' copy editor Nhi Ho and caused her to panic as she realized she had no phone to call for help.

Those who know me know that I am constantly on my phone. If my phone is not already in my hand, it is always within reach. I am always texting, texting, texting or scheduling and rescheduling my students’ lessons or tutoring sessions on my calendar. Then there are the endless lists and memos that I constantly make and update. Oh and there’s the sermon notes that I make every Sunday on my iPhone because my mother likes to know what I’m learning each week. These sermon notes can then be sent from my memos straight to my mother via email before I even leave the church parking lot. It is nothing short of awesome.

My preferred method of communicating is via text. If my sister hasn’t received one single text from me throughout a day, she has to call me to make sure that I’m alive and OK. I’ve been known to grab another phone to call myself if my phone hasn’t gone off at all in a few hours to check to see if it’s still functioning properly.

I always joke that my phone is an extension of my body because I need it to function on a daily basis. This proved to be true this past Friday evening when I got into a car accident on U.S. Highway 278.

It was a production day for The Rockdale News, and we were working on putting together the Saturday paper. I placed a to-go order for dinner, grabbed my wallet to pay for the meal and my keys. For some reason, I did not grab my phone which is odd because that is normally the very first thing that I make sure I have.

I was headed back to the newsroom when I got rear-ended by another car at a red light. The impact felt like it was a Mack truck that slammed into my car instead of just a Honda. I was shaken up, but as soon as I realized what happened, I immediately reached for my phone. Only it was nowhere to be found. I remembered that I ran out of the office so fast I didn’t take it with me.

That’s when I panicked. I seriously felt paralyzed. I had no way of calling anybody. I could not call the cops to report the accident. That wasn’t too problematic because I knew with the accident being on U.S. Highway 278, someone would see us sooner than later. Back to me panicking: I had no way of calling Michelle Kim back at the office to let her know what happened since she was expecting me back. I had no way of calling my mother since it was her car that I was actually driving that night. I could not even call the insurance company to report the accident. I was frantic. The very first thing that I said to the officer who first responded on the scene was, “May I please borrow your phone?!? I need to call my boss and get my phone.”

The officer asked if I was OK to which I responded, “I REALLY need to get my phone…”

I was thinking about all the missed opportunities of my not taking notes on a memo about the accident scene, taking photos of the damages to both cars for insurance purposes, and making lists.

When the officer so generously offered me his phone to use to reach someone back in the newsroom, I could only stare at the phone. I didn’t have the first clue as to what anyone’s numbers were. I didn’t know the main number to the office much less anyone’s extension. I also did not know anyone’s cell phone number. Everything is so conveniently saved on my iPhone that I didn’t have with me. Commence panic.

While not everyone’s need to “be connected” may be on the same level as mine, I’ve noticed that as technology gets more advanced, it is supposed to make us more connected to others. This is true in the case of my family in the U.S. being able to Skype my family back in Vietnam; however, my interaction with my family here in Atlanta is often through something that requires a battery or power cord.

Almost every time I go out with friends, everyone is staring down at their own phones while at dinner updating their Facebook status or Instagramming their meals rather than looking across the table and having a traditional conversation with those around them. I am guilty of all of the above.

The lesson to be learned here is that while I do need to carry my phone with me in case of an accident, I should be able to power off my phone from time to time and realize that it’s OK to not answer texts and emails immediately. I’ll live. And in the case of Friday’s accident, I lived – literally.

Nhi Ho is a copy editor for The Covington News. She can be reached at nho@covnews.com.

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