Ged Carroll

Smartphone zombies

Published: (Updated: ) in consumer behaviour | 消費者行為 | 소비자 행동, hong kong | 香港 | 홍콩 | 香港, japan |日本 | 일본, jargon watch | 術語定義 | 용어의 정의 | 用語の定義, wireless | 無線 |무선 네트워크 | 無線 by .

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Digital engagement

Hong Kong was the first place that I had every been where on the mass transit system specifically warns you to not look over intently at your phone and pay sufficient attention to riding the escalator. So it makes sense that I first read about smartphone zombies in the South China Morning Post.

Over 80 per cent of Hongkongers between the ages of 15 and 34 own a smartphone; so South China Morning Post‘s article about the perils of smartphone zombies roaming around seemed appropriate. Add to the ownership, the excellent reception that you can get in most part of Hong Kong compared to Europe and the you can see why it happens. 

The term describes someone cocooned in their own world of mobile social updates, email or games who  is distracted in walking or travelling on public transport. You don’t tend to see these people using voice services though in this cocooned state with their devices.

The devices are used all hours of the day and the night, it wasn’t unusual to get messages from colleagues after midnight most days on WhatsApp. The zombie impression is probably magnified by the bleary eyed Hong Kongers on a morning commute.  

The Cantonese for the phenomenon is dai tau juk or ‘head down tribe’.  It would be wrong to portray this as a purely a Hong Kong phenomena, with articles covering it in China, the US and Japan over the past year alone.

The US talked about it in terms of an addiction, whereas coverage of China, Japan and Hong Kong looked at it as being broadly anti-social behaviour. More jargon related posts here.

More information
Beware the smartphone zombies blindly wandering around Hong Kong | SCMP (paywall)
Japan’s smartphone ‘zombies’ turn urban areas into human pinball | Japan Times
Putting Smartphone Zombies In Their Place | TechCrunch
How your smartphone is turning you into a zombie | The Tennessean