Theme Park Insider

Quit texting and look where you're walking, theme park fans

July 26, 2017, 3:44 PM · Which road in Southern California has the worst traffic? Is it the 101 in Hollywood? The 5 south of downtown? How about the 405, anywhere?

Or is the worst traffic in Southern California found on Disneyland's Main Street USA after the fireworks?

Disneyland is the world's second-most popular theme park, trailing its younger sibling, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. But Disneyland crams its nearly 18 million annual visitors across 85 acres, while the Magic Kingdom has 107 acres to accommodate its 20 million annual visitors. On a visitors-per-acre basis, Disneyland might be the most crowded major theme park in the world.

Which makes getting around the park even more difficult when people slow or stop in the middle of pathways, instead of going with the flow of traffic. In recent years, I've noticed that, more and more, when people slow down at Disneyland, it's because they are looking at their phones instead of looking where they are going. That's the topic of my Orange County Register column this week: Are smartphones becoming a problem at theme parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm?

Years ago, I had a gig as a contributing editor for the American Statistical Association, in which I wrote an article called "Is Using a Cell Phone like Driving Drunk?" for a prototype publication called Inference Magazine that the ASA was considering launching. (There's no evidence the magazine went anywhere, and I never heard from them again. My bad, I guess?) Anyway, the gist of the article was that research showed the distraction that drivers felt while using their cell phones was comparable to the level of impairment associated with the minimum blood alcohol level to be arrested for DUI. It didn't matter whether you were using a hands-free phone or not. It was the conversation that was distracting, not holding the phone.

The flip side was that most people who actually are arrested for DUI blow way over the legal limit, making the answer to the question yes... or no...depending upon how you define it. Which is pretty much the answer to anything in statistics.

But the obvious impairment associated with using cell phones has led many states to ban texting while driving or even just holding a phone in your hand while behind the wheel. If you want to keep traffic moving safely, you've got to get drivers off their phones.

I think the same applies for people on foot, as well as behind the wheel. Yet with its new Maxpass system, Disneyland is encouraging people to use their phones more often while in the park. And Disney loves to promote the fact that its theme parks are the most Instagrammed places on Earth. You need to be using a phone in the park to do that, obviously.

So Disney isn't about to ban mobile phone use in its parks. Nor should it. Mobile phones are immeasurably valuable to a traveler. But theme park fans should use some common sense and courtesy along with their phones. Put the thing away while power walking from land to land, and step to the side — out of the flow of traffic — when you need to swap a Maxpass or Fastpass+, post to Instagram, or check your messages.

I know. Calling for people to treat others around them with some courtesy? Yeah, right. What are the chances of that?

Read Robert's column:

Replies (20)

July 26, 2017 at 4:58 PM · Common problem in all theme parks. People need to step to the right when they stop
July 26, 2017 at 8:54 PM · Common problem in the entire world these days, let alone theme parks. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man (I'm in my mid-30s mind you), smartphones and social media are absolutely ruining the world we live in.

Limiting the discussion to just theme parks, they cause people to: not watch where they're going, hold up traffic when they just stop in the middle of a path to check the phone or take a picture, not move along in queues or retail/food lines, take constant flash photos/videos during attractions, not watch shows and night-time entertainment with their own eyes and instead just through their phone which is held up to block others' views, not disconnect from the world and immerse themselves fully in the theme park environment/vacation, and the list goes on.

It's all good though because, you know, they get to throw the pictures up on Instagram for immediate gratification/attention/envy from others, etc. because no one has ever posted a picture of themselves in a theme park before. What an original concept!

It makes me sick that the world, and theme parks specifically, are not only going along with this trend but actually embracing it and making the experience dependent upon it. Does no one else find this sad? One of my favorite WDW mementos is a picture of my brother and I in MK as kids back in the late 80s. It's the only photo from the trip and 30 years later it is still proudly displayed on my mother's wall. On the simplest level, a photo meant everything prior to the smartphone-ization of society which has many awful implications reaching far beyond theme parks. Now, a photo means absolutely nothing because of the ease of taking one or hundreds and sharing them combined with many people's narcissistic tendencies.

In the near future, I see either a societal revolt against the technology or, as a sad alternative, the realization of a movie from the mid-2000s called "Idiocracy". If you don't know it, I highly recommend it. I'm hoping for the former but expecting and bracing for the latter. : ( Where I work in higher education, the phrase "data rich, analysis poor" is frequently cited. When it comes to smartphones and social media I think the appropriate phrase is technology rich, usage dead broke.

July 26, 2017 at 11:46 PM · The concept behind Idiocracry is awesome, unfortunately the movie itself wasn't that great. I see more and more parallels being drawn with modern society.
July 27, 2017 at 6:29 AM · Robert is showing his age now.... No more DAMN SMOT PHONES (Where I live we don't use the R's too often)....

I agree, folks need to learn to get the heck out of the way while using their phones...

Adversely the Universal App let us get in the Queue for Jimmy Fallon and gave us wait time for the attractions.... Also showed you where the nearest bathroom was, First aid, directions, where you parked...OOps sorry I meant POCKED.. hahahah

SO as usual you have to take the good with the bad..

Maybe the Theme parks can have training before going into the park on when and where to use said phone... One of those PSA films....

July 27, 2017 at 6:33 AM · Except that they are going to move to FP+ where you have to manage your ride reservations on your phones, requiring you to look at the things all day in the park. Yet another reason to ditch that awful system.
July 27, 2017 at 6:34 AM · The problem with common sense is that it isn't all that common.
July 27, 2017 at 6:49 AM · Theme parks are making smart phones almost necessary to enjoying the parks now. As someone who has worked on the metrics, I can tell you that fastpass and express pass has reduced efficiency and increased wait times 4 fold for rides. Many rides that were previously walk ons now have 50 minute waits due to fastpasses. If you want people out of their phones then start with the real problem.
July 27, 2017 at 6:52 AM · Tim - Common sense is not found in the bottom of a change purse..
I will let you use that one....hahahahaaha
July 27, 2017 at 8:44 AM · So, Matthew Gottula's an ass, right?
July 27, 2017 at 8:55 AM · Regarding the headline, Mr. Niles forgot to add "... and you damn kids stay off of my lawn!"
July 27, 2017 at 10:20 AM · As a fellow grumpy old man I must agree here, not only about looking where you're walking, but also enjoying what you supposedly came to see.

Our family was at Universal Orlando last month and visited the new Jimmy Fallon ride. Personally, I was looking forward to seeing the Tonight Show memorabilia in the lobby as much as trying out the new ride. I was most interested in the items from the Johnny Carson era, especially the Carnac turban. I had memories of a lot of good laughs associated with this prop.

When we got inside, the floor was lined full of guests sitting with their backs to the glass showcases looking at their phones. Our family noted that not one other guest was looking at the treasures or videos inside these beautifully designed displays. I had to excuse myself to those sitting in front of the cases to get a good look at just the Carson items. Similar situations played out in every park we visited during this trip.

I grew up enjoying theme parks long before cell phones came along, so it's beyond my comprehension why people pay to come to the meticulously-designed, immersive environment of a theme park if they intend to spend most of their time focused on a five-inch screen in the palm of their hands.

Incidentally, when you're not at a park, take a look at "Johnny Carson SIS BOOM BAH" on YouTube and see if you don't get as good a laugh from it as this grumpy old man does.

July 27, 2017 at 12:15 PM · The zombie apocalypse is here. It's the invasion of the Smartphone Zombies.
July 27, 2017 at 1:28 PM · The last time I was at 'Pandora The World of Avatar' (more commonly referred to as the 'Hamilton' of themed entertainment) and a guy on his phone walked right into me. And I was like "Dude! What the hell?" And he was like, I'm sorry. I was just sharing the latest Theme Park Insider blogflume to my Facebook page." And I was like, "Carry on."

And then he asked me if I heard about the new films that we're coming to EPCOT's 'Modern: Space.'

July 27, 2017 at 1:30 PM · TH - You probably took a selfie with him on your tablet, and posted it on your MySpace page with Joe Rohde's face photo-shopped on the Floating Mountains.
July 27, 2017 at 1:58 PM · At what point does the idiot with the camera in front of his face shut up?
July 28, 2017 at 12:45 AM · While theme parks increasingly control visits via apps it will only get worse.
July 28, 2017 at 4:52 AM · They are a menace and I would say 'ban them' but that would mean having to talk to my family in line again, and no-one wants that.
July 28, 2017 at 6:50 AM · ^^^ Too funny!
July 28, 2017 at 10:52 PM · Due to the fact that practically every theme/amusement park, tourist attraction, hotel/motel chain, airline, rental car company, tourism authority (did I forget anyone??) has their own APP, smartphones and tablets are almost necessity when we travel.

I mean certain hotel chains already let you open your room with your smartphone.

Unfortunately they cannot be banned like selfie sticks because of our dependency on them to plan everything!

July 31, 2017 at 5:41 AM · I especially like it when people are on their phones, run into you, then look at you as if it's your fault. Good times.

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