13. Zombification

Sir Oliver's Granny

Smartphones and mobile devices are no longer new within our society. Due to internet my family found the laboratory dogs foundation and learned about adopting lab dogs. In fact internet is one of my best friends. It is more the use of it that concerns me, the way people use their smartphone and how they are no longer present. Where I see myself struggling with emptying my head and downsizing the amount of random and specific thoughts, internet is facilitating the escape from reality, and I mean the physical reality. The past weeks I witnessed and even experienced the consequences of smartphone use while walking sir Oliver.

One time, sir Oliver, my daughter and I were almost home from a walk. In the opposite direction we saw a mother walking with a pram. I could see from a distance that she was holding something in one hand while pushing the pram with the other hand. When we came closer to each other, I could see her scrolling down on her smartphone. This mother was totally absorbed by the small screen of the phone. While she was heading towards us, I assumed she would keep her side of the sidewalk. Just a warning here, never assume things, keep yourself within your physical reality. And so, she wasn’t keeping her side, the woman was walking like a zombie crossing streets and not looking up for anything. As soon as it dawned on me that if I would not jump to the right with sir Oliver, she would run over us with the pram. We jumped and I was so flabbergasted that I did not say anything to the woman. I had met with a zombie and I pitied the child who was going to be brought up in silence with a mom staring at her screen.

The thing that struck me the most was my belief that a mother would not do such a thing. In my world a mother should be present with her child, talking to the child and enjoying each others company. Instead this mother was in cyberspace, while the child was staring at her from planet earth, not getting any response.

Another time I was walking with sir Oliver in the park where dogs may walk unleashed. Around 8AM there are not many people walking their dog in the park. Only now and then we are having an encounter with another dog and owner. So this time an owner was walking while on the phone with someone, engaged in a heated conversation. Her dog was walking behind her about 500m and the lady had no idea what the dog was doing or up to. I watched this scene and then calculated my chances to get by this dog with sir Oliver without any problems. Not all dogs like each other, and one does simply not know it, until they meet. So I was already pep talking Oliver and myself to be calm and grounded. When we met with this bigger dog, the dog wanted to play and sniff sir Oliver. Lucky enough both dogs liked each other and after a bit of sniffing each other I said in a directive voice, bye bye dog. Not that I think I am a dog whisperer, I simply hoped the dog would not follow us and become irritating. Since the owner was still walking away from the dog and still in conversation on the phone, my hopes were not high. Then the dog turned around and ran to his owner so no problems at all. This could have been a different situation, if the lady had been aware of the whereabouts of her dog and the present, without being occupied by the phone.

Then I noticed another favorite thing dog owners do, just like the mom, walking your dog while using social media on your smartphone. I really ask myself, what is so bad about walking ones dog, that we need distraction to do so? Internet and social media is here, nothing bad about that, using it wisely is another thing. If someone had said to me, 20 years ago, that in 2016 people would walk around like zombies with smartphones in their hands, I would have laughed. The first time I saw people walking the streets talking to themselves while I could not see a phone, I thought a madhouse was housed in my neighborhood. So yes, every new development within modern society comes with change, and that is what it is, change. One has to adjust to the change and not polarize the new. The zombification of men is something I cannot really get used to. I know reality is not always the place we like to be, the question is whether denying reality is going to bring us anywhere? A child needs his mom and not her smartphone, a dog needs his owner and not a zombie that walks him, we need ourselves and not get lost in cyberspace.

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