I can’t make myself do an objective article on this ingenious new app, which targets texting behind the wheel, without allowing for a dollop of cynicism toward our species. Forgive me. As a concept, the newly available TextNinja is a stroke of brilliance that allows users to obey the clunky, if well-meaning, state regulations forbidding the compulsive practice of texting while driving. I don’t mean to single out the texting regulations for this bit of wit; pretty much all state regulations are clunky and well-meaning. They are uniformly penned by people who refer to “The Google” and “The youth of today.”
TextNinja uses your vehicle’s OBD-II Port integration to tell your smartphone that you’re operating a car. It then silences the pings of your incoming text messages. At the same time, any messages you receive are smartly batted back automatically with a custom response. I presume that one can word this response as passive-aggressively as one likes: “This is Brayden, cool text brah! Can’t text and drive so u better put down ur phone LOL!”
The app is now out of Beta, and the TextNinja team has turned to Kickstarter to help fund the development of additional bluetooth-enabled hardware to allow further integration with your car.
Looking like a responsible global citizen might be considered a fitting reward, but TextNinja outdoes that with the ultimate perk: a series of collectible “Ninja belts” which offer some kind of emotional “attaboy” that can only be dangled effectively in front of millennial males. Without wanting to sound like a state Senator, I just want to point out that this feature can bank on major appeal in the market inhabited by people who binge-watch Dr Who and own pizza cutters modeled on the USS Enterprise.
It’s this kind of pandering that, frankly, makes my eyes go all wonky. When did “making a life-saving decision” start having to come with a goofy incentive program? I’m not saying that it doesn’t need to. I’m just disappointed that it’s even necessary.
TextNinja’s creators cite a Forbes article about FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out”) as proof that we lack the self-control required to ignore a text even if our lives (and others’) depend on it.
The real genius is that TextNinja intervenes at the moment most likely, in our culture, to cause a completely unnecessary collision. The tragedy is that we collectively need that intervention. What a first-world problem: we need a Nanny after all, despite our grumblings about government interference. We couldn’t use common sense to keep from texting, and so our reward was legislation. Now we cannot even obey state laws to keep our hands on the wheel without special assistance from TextNinja.
Bring it on, I say, if it will save lives. It’s the app we deserve.