The Modern Zombies
Is technology creating "zombies" out of it's users?
Listening to an NPR show today inspired me to write about something I am seeing these days regarding what appears as a demise in human interaction. What I see as a slipping away of humanity and social interaction as many of us may have grown up with.
I am not condemning technology here, but I am going to discuss what I see as a problem or dilemma and where I think we might be leading ourselves. Notice that I am not singling out kids here, as I will discuss later, I have seen this in all ages and lifestyles.
So, let us begin.
Picture Credit to Victor Habbick - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
A funny thing happened when I started this
Sometimes nature gives you a nudge
So when I sat down to write this, I was looking for some inspiration. Something that would nudge me in the direction that I hoped to go with this piece, and then it happened.
As if G-d himself were watching me contemplate, something happened that cemented the fact that I HAD to write this article or lens.
When sitting at the table in Jack in the Box, putting the first keystrokes down for this, and thinking about it, I noticed a family walk in. The younger of their kids was bringing up the rear and was playing with his smartphone. He was, in fact, so wrapped up in what he was doing that he was not paying attention to ANYTHING but the phone.
So it was with no surprise to me that he did not notice the garbage can or the child, who was about three, standing next to it. Consequently, he went down, dropped the phone, hurt his knees and made a big production out of the fact that the kid tripped him. Never mind that he was so wrapped up in his device that he would have tripped over an elephant and missed the Mongol Hoard, had they chosen that moment to raid the restaurant.
But wait... there's more...
The above is not the only time I have seen something like this happen. There are a great many stories that I have heard or personally witnessed over the years similar to this and it leads me to wonder about where we are going as a whole with our obsession with technology.
Within reason, I am not entirely immune to this. Have my smartphone and a tablet, and I have been known to use them while on the move from time to time. Most of the time, I would have to say 99% of the time, I restrict my usage to when I can stop someplace where I will not be in the way and do not risk a chance of face-planting myself while using my devices.
I also have the added benefit of being married to a woman that, if I am using my devices at inappropriate times, gives me the “Look of vile and painful death”, if not noticing that, she will then make some subtle comment like, “What are you doing, why don’t you join your family?”
So while not going to far as to say I am not without my technologic faults, I will say that I have a pretty good system in place to keep me from getting in too much trouble.
But I have still seen far worse cases, as I am about to share with you.
It's new, It's Improved...
... or why some people have no life away from phones
I have been in the technology industry for thirty years now. I got my start BEFORE there were affordable home computers, when portable phones weighed the same as car batteries and when staying in touch meant that you had to stay on routes that you knew would have functional pay phones.
I will admit that the advances in technology that have led to us having a phone that would fit in our pockets and work as both a computer and as a means of communication are pretty neat. I think that these are devices that can, and in some cases have, truly brought people together. Each year that goes by, more people are able to communicate with one another than ever before. But there is a darker side to that.
Yes… people are able to stay in touch with one another now, but it appears that it is at the expense of the personal relationship. People interact over the phones, but not as much in person as they once did. People have meetings and chat with large groups of friends, but in some cases, many of these people might never have or never will MEET in person and exchange that personal connection that comes from a face to face encounter.
The Family that texts together...
... Well... at least there is that.
When the iPhone 4 first came out and people were beating each other up for it. Standing in lines for it and generally giving up their free time and lives so that they would have the chance to be there and get one of the first ones that came out. I was watching with some amusement.
I have never been one to jump on the band wagon when some new technology comes out. I will read about it, watch the news for tidbits on it. I might even walk into a store and look at it and then ask the sales clerk, if there is one there, about it.
I have never been disappointed in buying older technology or waiting until the hype (and the prices) fall off before buying something that appears to be the latest and greatest. For example, I did not buy an XBOX 360 until almost two years after they came out and I am using an Android phone that is four years old and getting ready to “upgrade” to one that is about two years old.
But I digress…
When the iPhone 4 was released, I was sitting in a restaurant called for my lunch and a family walked it, placed their orders and at first appeared to be about to do what most families will do and that is sit and talk. But when they sat, moments later I looked up again because they were all deathly quiet, except for an occasional laugh or snicker.
What I saw was ridiculous. All four of them were sitting at the table and not saying a single word to one another. But they were all texting to each other or someone else and THAT is what they did for the entire hour I was there. Later I spoke to the owner, a friend of mine, and he told me that they remained there until he told them that they would have to buy something else if they were going to stay there. Which was, according to him, two hours later, during which time he told me that they maybe shared a handful of words.
Keeping up on your friends and family
... I know where you are!
Another thing that I think of when I talk to people about new technology is that with the advent of all these neat new toys, there is a rapidly shrinking sense of privacy these days.
As an example… I have a tendency to forget to tell my wife when I am going somewhere or where I will be if I have something planned. It is not a choice that I am making to be rude or that I have ill intents, it is that I am forgetful like that.
So I installed a nifty little app on my phone that will allow her to text me a trigger word and my phone will, in a few moments, tell her where I am, right down to the address. We can even send commands to the phone to cause the front and back camera to snap, so we can even see where the phone is.
Now, while that is fine for my wife and I, because we are both doing this voluntarily. But imagine if you are not wanting to be tracked or located, or are just a bit concerned about the possibility of people knowing where you are, and thusly, what you may be doing there?
I really cannot speak to that. I know that as long as you have a modern cellular or smart phone, and have not had it hacked in some way that will violate the TOS of your cellular provider; you really should have a very low expectation of true privacy.
So while this is all great for finding out where your Zombie child, like the one that tripped at the opening of this article, is wandering around. It is not so good if you are telling your wife you are out reading bible with the church group, and she sends the code and finds you are maybe having a biblical moment at someplace like Teaser Pleaser.
Phones, both smart and otherwise, are part of our lives. They will be here for some time and I see no sign of them going away.
I think the only thing I can say about this seeming zombification of people by their phones is to start practicing restraint and start using your devices less and noticing the people around you more.
If we would put our digital devices away and pay attention to one another, in person, I think the world would be so much better a place.
And that kid would have noticed he was about to crash and avoided looking like a fool!
Thanks for reading.