Zombiefied: Social media and the rise of the zombie culture

“Why is Go Goa Gone a zombie movie? And come to think of it, why the hell is Brad Pitt doing a zombie movie?! ? Why? I hate zombies!”

“Relax, we are going to see a zombie apocalypse soon anyway.”

Those pearls of wisdom from the husband got me thinking – aren’t we, in a way, already seeing a zombification of society?

Traditionally, a zombie is an animated corpse resurrected by mystical means, such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli. (Wikipedia)

Look around you – at the mall, in the garden, on the road – and you’ll find people walking around with their nose buried in their smartphone. Chances are they’re either Tweeting or Facebooking or texting.


Texting while walking (Photo credit: Steve Crane)

In the midst of all of this social media – where, admit it, you’re projecting your life, not living it – where is your “real” social life? You know, the one with family and friends.

Oh, you meet every week for drinks and dinner? Then do this little experiment:

The next time you’re out, just take a look at your own table, or heck, even at the people around you. Most of them will have their smartphone out, BBMing or Whatsapping or updating status messages while trying to hold a conversation with their dinner mates. C’mon, admit it – you do it too. I know I do.

3 people making cell phone calls simultaneousl...

Dinner companions – more connected virtually than really (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

Plus, any time I find myself alone anywhere – in the car, at the mall, the coffee shop, wherever – out comes my smartphone. It’s like I hide from the people around me behind that tiny 4 inch screen.

Instead of expanding, my life has contracted.

Instead of observing, I’m obsessing – over the hand I was dealt in Solitaire or my latest Facebook update (why has no one liked my brilliantly funny status update yet? Why!?).

Instead of connecting with people around me, I’m a voyeur of people’s online projections.

But this is not what I signed up for.

I used to laugh at people needing to “unplug” to live life. (And really, how does doing that for a week or a month help, when you’re back at it like you never left?) And again, life has reminded me not to laugh at others, because I may soon be part of the group I was laughing at.

So am I going to “unplug” to live my life? No.

Am I going to delete all my social media accounts and throw myself into living? No.

Am I going to throw away my shiny beautiful iPhone and switch to a non-smart phone? No.

What I have done is to choose to live as part of the connected world and remain connected – but with more awareness of what I am doing and why.

I’ve limited my online time to a few blocks of 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day, and when I find myself alone, I (mostly) resist hiding behind that shiny 4 inch screen and instead observe people around me. Or read a book, which is much more desirable (and fun) than playing endless rounds of Angry Birds.

It may not be easy to resist the temptation of obsessively checking Facebook or Twitter to see if my latest brainwave was liked or retweeted, or to give in to the lure of those Angry Birds, but it isn’t that hard either. All it requires is a little bit of self-discipline and a desire to truly live life.

I’ve reclaimed my power to un-zombify myself.

Have you?

Posted in Essays and tagged , , , , , , , .


  1. It’s so true. And sad… I think the biggest problem is with the kids, that are born to this situation. If I don’t give my son other options, he always ends up in front of a screen…

    • Yes, I agree. The younger generation, especially the ones who have grown up with smartphones, seem to be addicted to them. We aren’t all that far behind either, sadly.

  2. This is so true! And something I work feverishly on. I am incredibly guilty, because not only do I have my personal Social Media accounts and my North On Harper social media accounts, but my dad just is as a Social Media Director! Yes— I need to consciously make the decision to put down the phone more often….

    • Wow! So many accounts can get difficult to manage! I use my Twitter account for both my blog & personal stuff, I can’t imagine juggling 2 Twitter accounts!!

      Your dad is a social media director? How cool is that!!

  3. How ironic to read this post. Earlier today I was sitting on a bus, surfing on my smartphone when a friend got on and sat down beside me. I spoke to her while I continued to surf. Suddenly, I realized how rude I was behaving, and I put my phone away.

    • That’s something I see so many times. People are focused on their smartphones while you are taking to them. As you rightly pointed out, it’s rude. It’s also annoying for the other person. I used to juggle my smartphone and real life conversations too, but I am now making a very conscious effort not to.

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  5. I loved this post – it’s so true! I call my teens zombies (or plugged in Borgs – from Star Trek) all the time. It is so rude and annoying. And honestly it makes me worry about how their brains are developing and their attention spans – constantly having to click to this and then to that. Augh!

  6. This is one reason I don’t want my daughter to have a phone for a long time. It is great to leave the house and not be connected for a while.

    • I agree! When I see kids with phones, I feel blessed to have had a childhood without mobile phones. And we managed perfectly well, even though now we feel so lost without our mobiles.

  7. This is very true. And I’m quite guilty of it myself. If I’m just sitting there, doing nothing, I start to feel antsy wanting to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I’ve become addicted to needing to know what’s going on every second, even though 9 out of 10 times it’s absolutely nothing new.

    • I hear ya! There have been times when I logged on to one social media site or the other every couple of minutes, only to see that there was nothing new or interesting. No likes, no interesting tweets, no amazing photographs. And it used to make me even more antsy! I’m so much happier scaling back my social media time considerably.

  8. Yes, this is a HUGE problem. My family commits to tech free times during meals, especially when we are out. I see too many kids given a phone, iPad, etc. to be occupied. We are raising a generation of kids that will not be able to hold a conversation without having it through a device.

    • That’s an interesting perspective, and sadly, it may just be true. I think it’s great that you commit to tech free times during meals – it is so important to connect as a family over the dinner table.

  9. Excellent post. As someone who has not made the leap to Smartphone yet, I see it everywhere. And honestly, it is one of the main reasons I am holding out…I feel like it would be one more way I ignored my children. Stopping by from SITS Sharefest on Twitter.-Ashley

    • Oh wow, I think it’s amazing that you’ve managed to stay away from buying a smartphone!! But now that you mention it, one of these toys could make you ignore your kids – there have been times when I’ve ignored the husband. A couple of complaints later (ok, lots of them!) I made myself keep the phone away when we talk.

  10. Ha! I love this! Funny considering I just finished writing a piece about how I recently tortured myself when I lost a couple of followers on my Facebook page- like that was a reflection of who I am in real life. It’s weird how much we’ve traded in for this social media world we’re living in and I’m curious/horrified at where this may be leading us. I suppose it’s all a choice in the end, although its a losing battle to completely unplug as you said in your post. It’s a balancing act at the end of the day. Kudos!

    • Yeah, I hear that a lot. So-and-so unfriended me/blocked me/stopped following me and an analysis over what could be wrong with the person. But it’s all virtual, isn’t it? We also have a falling out with IRL friends – it’s never really a reflection on us, rather just the natural progression of life.

  11. Great post! So true and I am guilty of it as times too! What I worry about is the fact that kids don’t communicate face to face the way they used to…so much of it is online. Will they be able to carry on a normal conversation later in life? It is sad the way electronics have taken over our lives. Visiting from SITS Sharefest and very glad I did!

    • I don’t know…that’s a good question! I’ve seen people who are focused on their phone even when you’re standing in front of them and talking. And these people are always stressed. Little wonder, considering they aren’t fully present anywhere. The other big issue is online bullying among youngsters – the impact is much larger than the school bully pushing you in the playground. It suddenly seems as though everyone is against you – and the consequences of that can be heartbreaking.

  12. Oh, I hear you. I have an online business, so I spend more time online most days than I would like. I’ve weened myself off checking social media/e-mail at night, thankfully, but I too feel the need to whip out my cell phone whenever I’m waiting somewhere. I try to avoid having my phone out too much when I’m out with people, especially when we’re at a meal together. It’s so sad when I’m out and I look around and see so many people on their smart phones instead of interacting with other people. I mean, what is becoming of us?

    • That’s the big question here, isn’t it? The impact that this constant screen time has on our closest relationships. And though you have an online business, you do need some time off for yourself and family and friends and…life! It’s good that you don’t check email etc. at night…gives you space to unwind. 🙂

  13. That’s true, but at the same time it takes huge effort for me not to whip out my phone every time 🙁 Unpulugging digitally is a huge problem for me. I need a digital cleanse, I think.

    • Try taking it slowly…once you realize just how much time you have since you’re not constantly online and realize that you really aren’t missing out on anything earth shattering, it gets easier to do. 🙂

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  15. This is so true. I remember going out to dinner one night with my husband and watching a couple out together both of them on their iPads. That is the new date night. 🙁 When I’m with my kids I try not to be as plugged in to my accounts & such but its so hard not to want to check in or tweet every thought every minute.

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