A CHAT FROM LONDON: How modern gadgets are changing humans into zombies

Friday May 26 2017


By Freddy Macha

I was working with a colleague who moaned he was trying to get information on how to massage his sick, old uncle.

“Hospitals are just pumping him with painkillers and anti-depressants. But I think there must be another alternative solution out there.”

I said: “Go to YouTube...there are all sorts of experts, some fake, some OK...”

He looked at me as if I had suggested taking a bus to the capital of planet Jupiter.

“I don’t have a computer at home.”

He had a huge Samsung Galaxy S7 phone – newly bought.


“I don’t know how to use these things...”

I asked: “Don’t you have kids? Ask them...they will know.”

He said they do not live with him anymore.

I replied: “Nieces, nephews, neighbours’ kids...just ask. It is normal for them... like it was for us collecting stamps and buying Air Mail envelopes 40 years ago...”

He let out a long hollow sigh.

It was a very uncomfortable topic. Always is, with my generation. Emails? Facebook? Twitter? They find the whole theme a calamity. Another chap with grey hairs similar to mine said Instagram was set up for sinister motives and Facebook was used by CIA. This paranoia might be well founded, but who cares? I know so many who cannot stand Android and smartphones because they feel they are being tracked by the government and other eavesdropping forces.


Whether you have these devices or not you can always be tracked. But the big question is: if you are honest and live a normal life, why are you scared and paranoid? Have you got something to hide?

That is extreme and I find the use of technology a fact of life in the 21st century. I communicate with so many people across cities and the globe. Easily. Fast.

I don’t want to go retreat to the days where I had to queue up at the post office to buy stamps. Then the letter took up to seven days to reach its destination. And when phone calls came, you had to be searched from five minutes away to come answer. And as you spoke the ongoing theme was “it’s expensive, it’s expensive...we have to stop...”

So nerve wracking.

Now it’s the opposite.

This is what is being discussed overseas.

The young, yes, do know and love this technology.

But unfortunately they have also gone to extremes.

We of the past-1975-and-beyond-generation might find digital technology painstaking and difficult. Nevertheless, we can still be manual. We can switch off phones (at night, or while eating or meeting friends etc); we can have normal heart-to-heart interactions without having to look at the gadgets all the time. This is because we grew up without them. We are actually better placed then someone born post-1995.

According to a recent World Health Organisation report, over 70 per cent of young people aged 11-15 are tied to their machines for at least two hours every day. The WHO report survey, carried out in 2014 and covering mostly wealthy nations, said the habit was worrying because it was creating various health and psychological issues. The main one is of course inactivity.

Take this.

When you are busy texting, surfing and uploading pictures on your smartphone, laptop or tablet you tend to feel as though you are totally engrossed in something huge and amazing. We all know this. You wake up in the morning and switch on to WhatsApp immediately for example, the minutes just rush. You get consumed in the dialogue with a number of other users. You check videos. You get involved in discussions and start to respond and it is only after a while that you realise the loss of time. Ooops! You have other things to do! Gotta go!

The added problem is listening to music through ear or headphones.

One big illness of our era. Remember when you spoke to a young person and they cannot hear you because their ears are busy dissecting the s-s-s-s-s-swish s-s-s-s-swash sounds of music? How much damage are they doing to their ears, and other senses of alertness awareness, sensitivity and concentration?

But most alarming is the slow death of communication. No saying hello. No reacting to seeing a face on the street. Loss of tuning to our natural cycles. Totally switching off from reality. I have heard so many arguing that the world is so brutal and horrible that it is best to escape. Is this escaping? No wonder we need to find a balance. A balance between physical communication and digital appreciation is really needed. Otherwise we are creating (or have already) zombie creatures that cannot relate to each other.