Invasion of the ‘Smombies’

How often do you walk down the street whilst using a mobile phone? How unaware of your surroundings do you think this makes you? According to the Washington Post, roughly 50% of young people aged between 15 and 19 years old use a mobile phone when walking to school. Home to not one, but two large secondary schools, Oundle’s streets are dominated by groups of school pupils seven months of the year.

Despite the fact that both Prince William and Oundle School have implemented a ban on mobile phone usage around school, with the latter disallowing them in town as well, this does not deter students from using their phones. The urge to use mobiles on the street seems irresistible. One Oundle School pupil said: ‘It’s impossible to ignore the pull of social media, and I constantly find myself checking applications such as Facebook or Instagram whenever I have the chance.’

The question is, what kind of effect does this have on street life? Watching the midday morning rush of pupils and adults, it is astonishing to see how few people even look up from their screens when crossing the road, especially on the particularly hazardous crossing where Glapthorn Road and Blackpot Lane intercept.

German youths describe such people as being ‘smombies’ a cross between the words ‘smartphone’ and ‘zombies.’ Not being able to ‘resist the pull’ seems to be evidence of addiction, and a survey conducted by Social Media Today has found that teens between the ages of 15-19 spend at least three hours a day on social media. That’s 21 hours a week; nearly a full day a week is taken up by meaningless scrolling.

The Daily Mail recently found that 42% of people in the UK have walked into something while using their phone. One pupil told me: ‘I was reading a text on my phone, which meant I wasn’t concentrating, and I walked face first into a tree and banged my head.’

Next time you are walking down the street looking ‘smobified’ why not just take a look around. You will not be surprised to see the number of people (even in Oundle) walking hunched over their phones.

By Sabrina Hirst
December 2016