Digital Zombies - Are the rest of us in danger?
We’ve all seen them…hell, chances are you are one of them. They are everywhere: riding the subways and buses, walking the streets, sometimes even driving cars. Worst of all, they are often visible having a nice dinner out at a restaurant with their loved ones, friends or family. The new walking dead, sitting dead, or as I have decided to call them, digital zombies. Gone are the days when people paused to smell the coffee or strike up a conversation with others around them during their daily commute. In bars and restaurants, some even sit in their state of zombiness while their significant others stare into space, waiting for a chance for meaningful conversation.
I first noticed this infection taking hold of the population a few years ago. At first, it was just transmitted by clunky, portable boom boxes, usually carried by young males, but soon spread to music players available at the beginning of the digital era. Then it jumped to cell phones, laptops, PDAs and every other personal digital device out there. It grew exponentially over the next decade to overtake most of the world’s population. It used to be confined to those under 20 but has obviously mutated over the years to a point where it is capable of infecting anyone and everyone. Age, race and sex are no longer barriers to this spreading epidemic.
The symptoms are easy to recognize in those that are infected; some sort of digital device is in hand, a vacant stare will be occurring in the direction of the device, and there will be a noticeable, absolute oblivion to anything around them. Sometimes it is accompanied by twitching or rhythmic rocking of the body. You may notice strange plastic protuberances from parts of the body, especially the ears, and victims are often seen either babbling into the air in front of them or speaking to thin wires hanging from their neck or ears. Again, all this “conversation” will be occurring without any concern or respect given to those around them. If an infected person is heading in your direction while walking, it is advisable to get out of their path. Walking straight into you would not be an unusual occurrence.
This infection is especially dangerous to those driving vehicles. Digital zombies are involved in more vehicle accidents each year. As when walking, if you come across one behind the wheel of any vehicle, give them a wide berth. These symptoms , when found in drivers, can cause serious harm to others on the road. It is also easy to determine if you have entered an infected household. With a quick glance around the first room you enter, there will be at least one digital device in view. Within minutes and in a trance-like state, the victim will be drawn towards the closest one, even if in the middle of a conversation. The eyes will become glazed over and soon the person is mesmerized, the infection doing its dirty work as it continues to spread throughout the body. At this point, any communication with the victim is hopeless.
It is difficult to say what percentage of the population is infected but it is definitely still on the rise. During my recent winter vacation, I made a conscious effort to do a daily informal survey as I travelled around on planes, trains, subways and buses. On any moving vehicle, the number of people infected ranged from 50% to 80%. On the sidewalks and streets, this number decreased but was still apparent. It seems that this virus prefers enclosed spaces since it does become more prevalent in malls. Supporting this hypothesis is the fact that the symptoms disappear if the person can be convinced to travel to a remote, open space in the great outdoors. The more remote, the more chance of success.
Will this infection eventually overtake 100% of the population? Is there a cure? Does anybody care? These are all questions that I ponder as I travel around. It seems that the rest of the population (which is becoming a minority) is at ease with this disease. People have become accustomed to being surrounded by zombies on a daily basis. Apparently there is no cause for concern. It remains to be seen how this infection will play out in years to come. Will they eventually turn on the rest of us who are not plugged in? Should we start pulling out ear plugs and shouting to stop any future spread of this virus. Somehow, I believe it is too late to turn it around and it is only a matter of time before the whole world is infected.