I’m pretty sure I am living through the zombie apocalypse.

Looking at the water of the Gulf of Mexico, waves rhythmically crash onto the beach. I notice two people sitting on a concrete bench. Backs turned to the blue horizon, their heads stare down at the tiny screens anchored in their hands. The only hint of life is the twitching of their thumbs, repeatedly asking the screen to keep them entertained.

The couple is somewhere — but certainly not a few yards from Mother Nature’s big show.

I am increasingly worried about the unintended impact of people disengaging from life, addicted — for a lack of a better word — to tiny devices in their hands. Their world is less about where they are or whom they are with at the moment and more about the environment pouring from a tiny screen.

Looking back at the concrete bench, waves dancing behind the couple, they have yet to move or say a word to each other. Mother Nature is doing all she can do short of splashing them with salt water.

You don’t have to look too far to see what I’m talking about. People are so engrossed in the tiny screens in their hands they blindly plod along city streets, dangerously unaware of their surroundings. Restaurants are filled with couples on dates, both pouring their valuable attention into millions of pixels instead of each other. And more and more you see entire families sitting around a table, each with a device in their hands, totally disengaged from each other.

This zombie apocalypse could change the world as we know it.

Humans are social animals. And the art of conversation is a skill you hone over time, drawing out and listening to others. As predictable as the algorithm feed is before your eyes, real life is as equally unpredictable. While one is based on feeding you the cotton candy of what you already like, the latter is like a form of Russian roulette — you never knowing exactly what will come your way. And therein lies the fun, the development of skills, the appreciation for others and different points of view.

I can’t help but wonder whether our new zombie culture won’t lead to our undoing or at least severely damage our ability to build successful families, friendships and society.

Today’s zombie culture is fed by a diet of predetermined content and interests and the reinforcement of like opinions. The very platform heralded as the opening of Pandora’s box of information is instead closely controlled by sophisticated formulas designed to sharpen, narrow and shallow out our pools of interests. We are, technologically speaking, not too far removed from cattle being led to the slaughterhouse.

We could all end up as tasteless and homogenized as hamburger.

I look back at the couple at the water’s edge. I wish they would speak to each other, learn something new about the other, and build a deep well of conversations to one-day build upon.

But then again, zombies don’t feel or speak.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

President & Publisher

(4) comments

Mike Dean

Great Piece!

Bailey Jones

We go through revolutions like this every so often - Gutenberg's printing press, the invention of radio, the telephone. Then, as now, a new world of information is made available to the average human, some of it useful and factual, much of it damaging and dangerous. And a new means of communicating with ever larger and larger networks of humanity becomes available.
I spend a lot of time with my devices - sometimes conversing and debating issues of the day, like writing this letter, but most of my time is spent talking to friends and family. Friends I haven't seen since high school, family that has moved across the country. I have a much wider network of friends and family (and new friends) now than 20 years ago. I share their lives in ways I never would without my phone or PC (I'm old school). Yes, it's great to sit on the beach and watch the waves. But some of us work for a living, and it's great to see photos of sunrise and sunset at the beach on Galveston's facebook pages each and every day. It's useful to get crime reports in real time on Galveston's Crime watcher page. It's handy to read this newspaper without having to generate landfill. This morning I read an article on hominid evolution, saw a dozen pictures of a friend's grandchild, saved a loving note from my daughter, passed on some tips to a new member of a hobby group, laughed at Bloom County, was irritated by an idiot. And I walked the dogs and spent a good amount of time talking to neighbors and watching the leaves fall. The real downside of our device addiction is misinformation and lies - the same issue that Gutenberg and Marconi had. But that's a whole other subject.

Jose' Boix

A great thinking piece of writing. The dichotomy: Is the "tool" driving/controlling our "God given talents," or no we should be able to use our talents to enable rational thinking to lead our lives.

Miceal O'Laochdha

The examples of what you are pointing out here Leonard are legion and constant. Your own example at the beach is one I notice every day. Just this morning while driving down Seawall Blvd, I saw a woman walking along the beach, feet just touching the water's edge, riveting all her attention into the phone in her upraised palm. Why did she bother to come there? I always assume these people are looking at photos or videos of beaches elsewhere, while they walk along an actual beach, oblivious. How easy it will be to lead such people off any cliff a manipulative entity wishes.

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