WHAT is the first thing that you do when you wake up in the morning? For most people, it is to check their phones. Some may argue that it is just to check the time or date — big difference. Are you aware that your beloved smart phone has replaced your camera, alarm clock and calendar? If one is not careful, you’ll become an addict and your phone will replace many other aspects of your life. Apparently also 70% of drivers use their smart phones while on the road worldwide.Before I started driving, I used to think using a phone while driving looked so cool. I could not wait to learn how to drive and try it out. I remember before I started driving I was involved in a minor car accident because the person who was driving was texting while driving. At the time I did not see anything wrong about it.The reaction of the person we had rear-ended was what changed my mind about using the phone while driving. He was fuming because he had seen that the elderly gentleman who I was driving with was on his phone when he rear-ended his car. He was on the verge of physically assaulting him on the street, but other motorists intervened and calmed him down. I realised that as much as people casually do this, it is extremely distracting and equally dangerous.Cellphones can be highly distracting. No doubt the smart phone is one of the most wonderful technologies invented. It has helped us immensely to stay in touch effortlessly with our friends, families and colleagues. Although are we constantly told about its harm and dangers. I have a few friends who are constantly on their phones. They can never get their thumbs and eyes off the screens of their phones. It is quite irritating and annoying to try to have a decent conversation with people who are only paying attention to their phone. One second they are listening, but once their phones peep or vibrate, they’re gone. You can carry on talking but their attention is long gone, you’ll be lucky to get an “mmh” or a “what?” from them. The smart phone has become a very divisive thing. I personally get offended when I text and don’t get an instant reply from such people considering that they are glued to their cellphones. How many social gatherings have you attended where people just opt to take out their cellphones instead of greeting and making friends?Scientists have warned that we are no longer masters of our phones but we have become slaves to them and involuntarily respond to their every peep and vibration. Apparently our obsessive phone-checking behaviour is affecting our brains. It destroys our physical and social relationships, and stops us concentrating on anything. This fomo — fear of missing out — turns some of us into petty criminals as we go around stealing other people’s phone chargers just to stay connected.Many of us cannot bear the thought of being separated from our smart phones even for a few minutes; some people even sleep with them under their pillows constantly gazing at them whenever they wake up during the night. Some go as far as taking their phones into the bathroom with them. Smart phones and the Internet are the climax of modern information technology and are immensely useful, but they are beginning to get me down as well. I feel quite lost without my smart phone, but at the same time increasingly irritated by other people’s addiction to theirs.I also feel overwhelmed by e-mails. I don’t get many that matter much, but so many that don’t that it can take hours sorting them out, deleting them or filing them away in mailboxes. The urge of checking every peep on your phone is so intense that people cannot help checking their phones while driving, walking or crossing at the traffic light.All of these can be extremely dangerous and can and have resulted in tragic incidents where people have lost their lives but still people continue to risk checking their phones in any situation.I just urge people to transform with modern times but also bear in mind that they have to be above technology and not allow technology to control them. Be in touch online but also connect with people around you as those are the more authentic relationships we build. Phones are only as distracting as you allow them to be.• Nompilo Kunene is a reporter at The Witness.