The Domination of the World by Smartphone - The Evidence in Photos!
This is a collection of photos of people using smartphones! Why? Because for several years now I have become increasingly exasperated by the ever growing dependence of the human species upon a tiny box of tricks which they can stuff into their pocklets or their handbags, and which lights up when they press a button.
And what does it do after lighting up? It does everything that you think you need to do when you're out and about in the world today, but which nobody ever needed to do when they were out and about in the world in the past.
It was whilst on holiday in Thailand during the time when that country was in the midst of one particular gaming craze that the idea for this article about smartphones came into being. But don't worry - it's not an in-depth look at the social and psychological effects of our current addiction to these devices. Rather, it's just a collection of candid photos with captions which hopefully you will find humorous - a lighthearted and only slightly exaggerated look at a world obsession.
When did my exasperation begin? I suppose it was actually some time before that trip to Thailand, though in the beginning it wasn't so much exasperation as just a mild bemusement with the rapid erosion of social intercourse - ie: conversation - which seemed to be taking place during the first 15 years of the 21st century. I was working in a hospital at the time, and I most noticed this during lunch breaks. Sometimes I would be sitting in the staffroom just daydreaming, looking round the room, when I would find myself observing my work colleagues. And whilst they might indulge in conversation, quite often the room descended into total silence.
Some would be reading (as often as not on a Kindle or other e-reader (another electronic device which manages to irritate me - even though I can see the benefits). But many others would be staring down at a smartphone. Sometimes they were almost motionless, lost to the world, their consciousness only betrayed by the periodic jabbing with their fingers at the buttons. What they were doing, I did not always know, but I guess they would be texting, or reading e-mails, or playing games. I just observed.
Then in 2016 - after quitting work, sadly to never again experience that staffroom (I do miss the staffroom and my work friends, though not the smartphones!) - I was on holiday in Bangkok, Thailand, where I'd already noticed on previous visits that the locals seemed even more enamoured with these devices than us Westerners. In any communal gathering such as on a train ride, it often semed that no one was aware of anyone else, including the person sitting next to them, and the only sound to ever be heard was the constant beep beep of smartphone keys. At least the tone sometimes varied. Occasionally I took photos of people as they used their smartphones.
But on this particular visit, 'Pokémon Go' had recently been released on to the market and the craze was in full flow, and so the germ of an idea for this hub came about. And it happened in a shopping mall .....
Picture No 1
This was the day when the imminent death of person to person contact became apparent to me. The first three of these photos were all taken literally within just ten minutes of each other in a shopping mall in Central Bangkok, which goes to show how easy it was to find examples. It seems that even shopping is only a secondary priority these days. Talking to each other comes way down the list!
Picture No 2
What on Earth can they all be doing? Well, I've already mentioned 'Pokémon Go' is certainly high on the list. But some will be reading texts from people they've spoken to less than ten minutes before, or will speak to less than ten minutes in the future, and some will be communicating with someone on social media - perhaps a 'friend on Facebook' that they wouldn't ordinarily want to spend the time of day with. Some may even be looking at a website (though the chances are it won't be anything more erudite than a media gossip page). None of them however, are talking to each other.
Picture No 3
Isn't it nice when seven school friends meet up together to talk to ..... their mobile phones?
I swear that if a meteor came down and obliterated the Earth, some people would only notice if they saw its reflection in their cell phone screen.
So to continue the story of this article. Having got those three photos above, I decided to keep a close look out for more opportunities. It didn't exactly take over my life whilst on holiday - if it had become so, then my abnormal obsession with taking these photos wouldn't have been much better than the obsession of these normal people with their smartphones! But whenever I saw a sight which amused me or (in some instances) amazed me, I took a photo. And those photos form the basis of this article. All were taken in Thailand, but I'm sure could have been taken in almost any country in the world. Hope you enjoy the rest of them :)
Picture No 4
The next two photos were taken in an art gallery in Bangkok - a place where people go to use their eyes to study, to view, to observe.
Here for example are two people who went to the art gallery to study, to view, to observe ..... their smartphones.
Nice pictures on the wall. Wonder if they noticed?
Picture No 5
Hmm, this one's a bit complicated, so concentrate. Also taken in the art gallery, the picture below is my photo of a picture of a girl taking a photo with a smartphone of a picture of the King of Thailand taking a photo with a camera. Confused?
Two more photos from shopping malls, both illustrating symmetry.
Picture No 6
Perfect symmetry - When you use your smartphone in company with a friend, it can become a beautiful exercise in symmetry - demonstrated here by two shop girls during their break.
Picture No 7
Almost perfect symmetry - I waited ages for the photo below, but nobody wanted to sit on the yellow bench. That's why it's only 'almost perfect' symmetry in the use of smartphones. But what's wrong with the yellow bench?
Picture No 8
Now this is something which I'll never understand as long as I live.
If you have a laptop with a nice big screen and you have a smartphone with a teeny little screen that you need a magnifying glass to look at, which would you choose? The smartphone of course!
(I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was doing different things on the two machines!!)
Picture No 9
Elegance and style and a sense of deportment go hand in hand with the use of smart phones - as today's youth are well aware.
Picture No 10
An ever vigilant security guard keeps a very careful watch at all times - just in case someone snapchats him.
One thing I saw and really wanted to photograph, but haven't yet managed to get, was a security guard on bag checking duty at the entrance to a building, playing with his smartphone whilst people passed by unchallenged with bags full of - heavy shopping (I hope).
Picture No 11
It gets worse! But don't worry, because she's holding on very tightly to that phone, rather than the guy who's driving. So I'm sure when she falls off the back of the bike and cracks her head open, she will be able to keep her most treasured possession very safe. So that's good.
Note the lack of a passenger crash helmet too - not compulsory in Thailand.
Picture No 12
Well at least in the previous photo the girl didn't need to look where she was going. But this guy's riding. At least he's got a crash helmet, but maybe it's only a matter of time before they'll develop a little metal helmet for safety conscious motorcyclists to put around their phones. After all, he wouldn't want to damage that if he runs into the back of a truck would he?
(NB: in both these pictures, I can confirm there's no deceit - the bikes weren't stationary. They were moving.)
Picture No 13
The picture above shows two guys. The guy on the left can be seen to be exhibiting normal smartphone behaviour, doing what everyone does with one of these devices. Maybe he's playing a game or reading e-mails or maybe reading one of my web pages? (wishful thinking in the extreme).
But what about the guy on the right? What can he possibly be doing? If I'm not very much mistaken I think he's harnessing a little known facility on one of these devices. Yes, they can actually be used for - wait for it - TALKING TO SOMEONE.
For the benefit of young addicts here, once upon a time believe it or not, 'talking' was the only thing people used a phone for. Instead of pressing buttons or touchscreens and sending a message to a friend, you actually heard the sound of their voice. You may see it being practised in old photos and movies. It used to be called 'making a telephone call' and the device was known as a 'telephone'.
Picture No 14
You may one day forget what you look like and not have a mirror handy. So the invention of the 'selfie' was a priceless landmark in the development of human culture. And it has the added benefit that - unlike a mirror - you can show everyone else in the world what you look like. Instantly! What's more, you can even put a silly expression on your face and make yourself look as unattractive to everyone as possible. What a boon to our social life that is.
Having said that, the girl in the picture looks quite nice, so I'll forgive her - she's got a right to take her own photo. Personally I'd rather take a photo of those pigeons than take a photo of myself.
Picture No 15
It's getting to the stage whereby it's not socially possible to exist in the absence of a smartphone. What do you do if you are without one? Well, if you are friendless and phoneless with nobody to talk to, you can always stare at the real world .....
Picture No 16
.... or you can just go to sleep.
Picture No 17
Finally, even mermaids in Thailand cannot do without their smartphones! This was taken from a mural outside the Buddhist temple of Wat Pa Huay Lad in Loei Province. One of the things I like about Buddhism is that despite the aura of reverence which it has in common with all religions, sometimes a sense of fun is permitted, and this was a mural of artwork which depicted sea creatures, including the mermaid with an Apple i-phone.
Don't ask me why - I don't know. It may have been intended as a wry social comment, but it's a good indication of how - for better or worse - these smartphones are now an integral part of our culture.
In Conclusion - Why write this?
So this is my study of the smartphone, as used in Thailand. You know that film 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' where the people are taken over one by one by an alien, and they all look exactly the same as before but their behaviour changes to become unthinking, zombie-like beings? Well one day - maybe soon - it may happen to me. I may succumb to the smartphone. If that happens, I will try to retain some semblence of humanity, but I thought I ought to express my feelings now - before it's too late.
Don't get me wrong - this is really just a bit of fun which I hope will bring a smile to the face. But nonethless there is a semi-serious message here. At times I could swear that people - especially teenagers - are becoming inextricably welded to these devices to a greater extent than they are to their friends or family. It has become their constant companion and their most treasured possession. It seems normal social behaviour is changing before our eyes, the art of conversation is being lost, and along with it, an awareness of the world around us. Where will it end?