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 McMurry University

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By Lydia Long PhD. | October 1, 2013

I’ve watched with a touch of humor the rising Zombie fad, until I realized it’s not a fad, it’s a metaphor for our digital life. The Zombies are winning and their weapon of choice is the Cell phone. We’ve all seen them, the Zombie with cell phone in hand, wandering head down, oblivious to people, traffic, barking dogs, mindlessly communicating with their fellow zombies. I walked into my college classroom the other day and watched the interaction, or lack thereof. In a classical experimental design, one side of the classroom was chatting away, making idle conversation until class started. The “Zombie” side sat quietly in their seats, eyes down, and texting someone, anyone, in a desperate attempt to avoid looking at or speaking with the person alongside them. As usual, I told everyone to turn off their phones and computers. Though they know this is a rule in my classrooms, the anger of some students was palatable. I proceeded to get on my soapbox about, “why are you in college, if you don’t want to learn and interact?” “Go take an online course, and that way you don’t have to interact with a ‘real’ person.” {{more}}I actually want to know what they think and their opinions. I don’t want Google’s or Wikipedia’s opinion, I actually want theirs. I’m ‘old school’ in the sense that I believe students come to college to learn, exchange ideas and grow. Being able to text and make eye contact at the same time is not an achievement to brag about. These days, the opening statement in most meetings is, “Please set your phones to vibrate”. However, texting continues, albeit silently during the meeting as people furtively text their friends, colleagues, and, I guess, outer space. I wonder why people pay hundreds of dollars to attend a conference and then proceed to text during every presentation and totally miss the information. I’ve sat at tables at fundraisers where not one person spoke to me, because they were all on their cell phones texting. Why leave home? In years past, between presentations, classes, even waiting in line for the restroom, people passed the time by speaking to each other. Friendships and romances have blossomed in many a grocery store line. Texting about the hot chick in line in front of you, will not get you a date. And, while you’re texting she didn’t speak to you because…you were texting!And, cell phones have permeated every faucet of society promoting rudeness. Remember when only Doctors and Surgeons had beepers for emergencies? Now everyone has to answer every call, NOW!! Many have become so egocentric they literally stop in the middle of a grocery store aisle to answer than burning cell phone call from, a telemarketer…, totally disregarding the pile up of people behind them. And, heaven forbid you ask the Zombie to put down the cell phone and pick up their food order, drive, eat, just pay attention. How dare you? My conversation takes precedence over you, mere human!We have become so wrapped up in updating our social network sites we are losing the ability to communicate interpersonally. Are you guilty of eating dinner with friends or family and having your cell phone out, texting about having dinner with friends and family? Turn it off, and enjoy some real conversation with the friends and family who took the time to sit down with you. We have become so reliant on our social media monologues, that making real conversation is becoming a lost art. When was the last time you introduced yourself to someone? Said hello? Showed interest in getting to know who they are? Texting is not a substitute for real conversation. I’ve read Face book comments where the dialogue starts getting contentious. In general, the conversation is deleted almost immediately. In real life, if the conversation gets uncomfortable, you have to work your way back out. However, since many now only know online conversations, they just get up or walk away, unable to deal with the reality of a give and take conversation. Conversation brings us together as humans, it teaches us to be tolerant of other’s views and how to interact civilly. Stop the zombie invasion, pick up your head, put down the cell phone, and join the human conversation. Lydia M. Long, PhD., is an adjunct Criminal Justice Professor for McMurry University.