We live in a world of zombies sponsored by Apple, Samsung, Rogers, Telus, Virgin, and others.

I’ve watched people on their cellphones walk into poles; city refuse bins, trip, bump into strangers and be startled when someone honks at them while crossing on a red light. This zombie-worthy practice, walking around clueless and entitled, is happening everywhere.

There is a term called Smartphone Zombies, as this has become prevalent worldwide, choosing to interact with cellphones at the cost of safety, causing dangerous behaviour. It also falls under the category of (FOMO). The Fear of Missing Out. With it comes the unsafe practice of wearing earbuds, rendering one intentionally hearing-impaired to the sound of emergency vehicle sirens or honking vehicles. How is that legal?

When I was growing up, our phone was stationary, attached to a wall, but we were freer than then we are now. I was taught never to walk into traffic because it was careless and dangerous. You looked both ways before you crossed. No more. Walking into traffic without any warning is what zombies do, and drivers are wronged for honking, not the zombies, for eliminating any margin of safety. As a cyclist, pedestrian and driver, I practice the rules, but it doesn’t matter when others violate them. The city needs to make public service announcements to remind people to stop and look both ways when they cross the street. It’s not unreasonable to alert the public of the danger of this practice not dissimilar to PSA’s around washing one’s hands. It’s common sense, but we don’t live at a time where common sense has the same traction it once did. Randomly walking into traffic with vehicles weighing up to 1760 kilos having no room to manoeuvre and negotiate safe passage is how you delete your life, not your texts.

I’ve witnessed events where a child’s parent was engrossed in their phone while their little one was doing something magnificent, only to look up and see that their parent’s eyes weren’t on them but their phone. It was heartbreaking. Mothers interact with their kids in a park, and no sooner are they placed in their stroller, their mother’s gaze is glued to their phones. Then there are children being pushed on a swing while a parent stares at their phone. Where is our self-mastery in all of this? Our children are learning these behaviours. We’re the boss of our digital devices; it’s not the boss of us. Children crave parental attention through play and reading. The truth is, no app can replace a lap.

A few years back, on a lovely summer night, I took a stroll with my husband. The restaurants were filled, their front windows wide open. Large and small tables crowded with people. Instead of looking and interacting with each other, they were all looking down at their phones. Where is the romance when a couple stares at their phones instead of at each other? We’ve become separate in our togetherness. Perhaps strapping phones to our foreheads would help those that can’t look at one another busy staring down instead and perpetuating jobs for those specializing in healing severe neck strain.

This distraction has been equated to a new type of cigarette. The need to pick it up awards us with dopamine. No different from Pavlov’s dog when it beeps, rings or buzzes. We twitch, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In time, that can become chronic. The distraction of missing quality time has become the norm instead of the exception. When that diversion negatively impacts someone else’s safety, we have an issue.

My friends aren’t amused if someone invited for dinner leaves their cellphone on the dinner table. It’s hugely disrespectful to the hostess/host as they hustle to create a magical night only for their guests anxiously awaiting a pause in the evening so they can check their phones.

The cell phone was Steve Jobs’s imagination at work, but what if you were to release your creativity instead of falling prey and escaping to live in a virtual world. What would that look like? I believe the most significant minds of history would agree, from Einstein to Leonardo da Vinci, that each of us is gifted with magnificence within our imagination that needs to be mined and realized. Being a zombie is not co-creating with the Universe.

We have a primitive urge to control our surroundings, and this device grants us the illusion of that control. It is an addictive piece of technology, whereas being present is the real deal. Ironically the smartphone is making us dumb. People can’t remember phone numbers, critical points in navigating destinations while adopting a slew of lazy ways of being.

I spend little to no time on social media. However, having stopped purchasing cookbooks, I’m notorious for spending time scrolling recipes. I have no idea how many friends I have on Facebook. If I want to know, the best way to find out is to ask for a kidney or to borrow a large sum of money. Mel Robbins said, “Don’t miss out on your life just because you’re too busy scrolling through someone else’s.”

Walking through life and experiencing it through a lens is cheating oneself of the moment. That isn’t life. That’s an illusion, where ego has you hook, line, and sinker. I don’t photograph my food. I savour it as I eat it. My phone is a tool, and I use it as such. Happily, digital devices and I are genuinely incompatible. Put one even close to me, and it will commence flashing some bizarre error code.

People don’t get that their phone will be with them, but the person in front of them will not. Though digital devices can bring those abroad closer to us, they can also take us away from those sitting right in front of us. I recently read an anonymous quote “…people are prisoners of their phones. That’s why they are called Cell Phones.” When you’re out, put your phone away and pay attention to those talking to you. There’s already an app for that. It’s called respect.

I see it much like an adult’s pacifier that has to be with them at all times. We should be happy to be left alone with only our thoughts. That’s a sacred time when our Higher Self can guide us through whatever we’re going through. That’s reality.

Today’s etiquette suggests you turn your ringtone off when you’re out and not place it in front of you at a table. As for group texts, please stop. They are no different than being held, hostage. If it doesn’t concern me, please cut me loose. Instead of leaving a voicemail, they say to send a text, but I enjoy hearing a human voice. The words ‘I love you’ sound infinitely better conveyed through a voice than relayed as a text. As for accepting calls while sitting in a public washroom?  Who is calling that’s so important? It’s that lack of discretion that is steering us backwards.

So here’s my rant to the zombies. Don’t walk into traffic. Look up at me when you’re crossing the street so our eyes can lock and we can negotiate a safe passage for the both of us. Be mindful when you’re driving or walking while wearing earbuds so that emergency vehicles don’t struggle to move around you or you can’t hear people honking, alerting you to danger. We’re all important. Don’t talk to me while looking down at your phone, and if you put it on my dining table, don’t be surprised if I choose to use it as a trivet for my heavy dutch oven.

Let’s agree to leave the zombies for Halloween instead of becoming one.