cell phones, hive mentality, and zombies
famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist
Mark A. Carter rants about
cell phone gaming, rudeness,
texting, and a shift in the
Like polymorphous perverts in kindergarden who appear to be playing
with one another but actually are playing separately, the modern
cell phone gamer and texter is isolated from the group and has
Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality
|When I was
ten years old, I got a marvelous birthday present. I
had asked for and received a small transistor radio. It was red.
And I felt like the coolest kid on
the block. So, I took it to school to
show off. At recess, in the middle of the school yard,
I pulled out my pocket radio,
extended its telescopic antenna, tuned in to
CKTB, shut my eyes in ecstasy, and danced to the
tunes. I reveled in three
transistor nirvana for all of about
one minute. When I opened my eyes to look out at my classmates,
who were milling around the prison yard like angry hornets, I
assumed they would be staring at me with
slack-jawed envy. I thought perhaps they would be crowded
around me. Maybe they would ask questions or want to try my radio.
Maybe they would think that I was important. I suppose,
in ritual terms, I secretly hoped that my technology
would act as a babe magnet.
But I noticed that there was nary
a soul around me. They had all given me a
wide berth. And it wasn't envy in their eyes. They thought
I was crazy. They definitely thought I was antisocial,
on a gut level, before any of them had heard the term.
left to their own devices, are
cruel beyond belief, which is why they are referred to
in psychological circles as polymorphous
perverts. And it is why they instinctively have the urge
to kill what they consider abnormal or weak. In many people,
this tendency runs throughout their lives. Anyway, I am convinced
that the children in the school yard that day would have
fileted, roasted, and eaten me, if we had been
marooned on an uninhabited island. Can you say
Piggy? Read the 1954 novel:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
So, when I see people with cell
phones everywhere nowadays using their devices to divorce themselves
from their surroundings, I think they are being
antisocial or dissocial, and selfish. The
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
or DSM classifies
their behavior as a mental illness and has labelled it
Antisocial Personality Disorder or
ASPD. And because they are so
self-absorbed, we can throw in
Narcissistic Personality Disorder or
NPD, as well.
I see people with
ASPD and NPD
in the supermarket talking on their phones while they
shop. By the way, people cannot walk and phone without incident.
Neither can they drive a car and phone or push a cart and phone.
Give them a wide berth. Watch your toes. They are dangerous.
And I can't help but think back to the school yard and me with
the red radio pressed up against my ear. But the people I see
doing this with their cell phones are not children. They aren't
doctors taking that all important call summoning them to
Metropolitan Hospital to perform emergency surgery. These
people have a screw loose.
They are suffering from feelings of inadequacy, as perhaps I
was at ten years of age, in
the school yard with my transistor
radio. They want to seem important. And that cell phone
pressed up against their ear serves to feed their
delusion of grandeur. Perhaps they have
antisocial tendencies. Maybe it's
all of the above.
The original UK Lord of the Flies book cover by artist
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Coward,
McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1954.
Key, Wilson Bryan. Subliminal Seduction: Are You Being Sexually
Aroused By This Picture? Introduction by Marshall McLuhan.
New York: Prentice-Hall, 1974.
But talking on cell phones has
been overshadowed by gaming and by texting. The other day, while
I was in the dentist chair and my wife sat in the waiting room,
she observed that no one was talking. They all had their heads
down and were gaming or texting on their cell phones. And she
had an epiphany. When we left,
she commented on her observation. As we walked to the car she
told me that I had been right all
these years. Cell phones were making people
I don't believe that. I think
that antisocial people have gravitated
to cell phone usage, particularly to playing games on their phones.
And the exclusivity of cell
phone gaming, in turn, has
reinforced their mental illness. Antisocial people play
games or text on their phones to avoid eye contact with the people
in their midst. They are either utterly isolated from the group
around them while playing their games or texting and are
denying, excluding, or ignoring the group in favor of
entertainment or of an external group. Either way, they deem
their behavior acceptable and more important than human interaction
with the group they are physically in, although others may see
it otherwise. But, to me, their misbehavior just seems rude,
like walking in front of someone and not saying,
"Excuse me." But that happens all the time
too nowadays and is a can of worms
for another time.
I see cell phone gaming or texting,
while waiting, as a nouveau version
of reading a magazine. Reading a book or flipping through
a magazine, while sitting in a group, was always
benign avoidance behavior. Now, there just seems to be
more of it. Like reading, cell phone gaming and texting sends
an exclusionary message: don't talk
to me. This might be a good thing. Who wants to hear
a stranger lament while you sit in the waiting room of a dentist's
office or during a bus ride, train journey, or plane flight?
If you let them, some people will
fixate on you because they are stressed by their situation.
And, deluded into a
sense of familiarity by close
proximity to you, they will tell you their entire life
story in a major dump of verbal diarrhea
then fall asleep on your shoulder and drivel over you.
|I also believe
that the human brain is wired to have an
addictive response to flashing lights. We do it when
we see fireworks. Los Vegas
has raked in billions of dollars
banking on our attraction to flashing lights. And gaming, whether
it occurs at a casino, on your computer, or on your cell phone,
is designed to addict, to mesmerize,
and to zombify. Ha.
After reading the
1974 book: Subliminal Seduction
by Wilson Bryan Key, who I met one fall day at the
University of Western Ontario circa 1975, and spoke with
amid the rustling leaves in front of
Middlesex College, I am not mesmerized by flashing lights.
I see them as gimmick to promote
the bottom line which is sales. A few years later, I recall programming
a simple car racing game in BASIC
onto my Apple II.
I also recall programming a simple version of Blackjack. I tested
them. I played them. And I got over them. Also, as part of my
training in Psychology, I
took a mandatory course in statistics.
So, with a normal curve
under my belt, I will never walk into a casino because I know
you can't statistically win. I see the code beneath the visual
display which has become considerably more addictive and mesmerizing
now due to increased computer memory and speed. And I know that
these games are programmed to defeat the user. So, why play?
But cell phone users seem addicted to their devices, to playing
games on them, and to texting on their expensive tools or are
they toys? And because of the constant and intimate connection
between cell phone and user, these beloved devices with their
bells, whistles, and
flashing lights, have become extensions of the people
who use them. And those people have become, in turn,
cybernetic entities: part human being and part machine.
1997 novel: 3001, Arthur C. Clarke predicts the
evolution of cybernetic communications.
The cell phone is reduced to a single, miniscule, electronic
chip that is implanted on the surface of the human brain. It
makes sense to me that areas seventeen,
eighteen, and nineteen at the back of the brain, the
visual acuity areas adjacent
to the calcerine fissure might
be a candidate location. That way, you would most probably see
your display floating before you in
middle distance and perhaps control your selection by
looking in its direction and blinking once or twice to emulate
the point of a cursor and the click
of a mouse.
Clarke, Arthur C. 3001: The Final Odyssey. New York: Del
Rey / Ballantine, Mar 1997.
Harrison, Harry. Bill, the Galactic Hero. Cover by Larry
Lurin. New York: Doubleday, First Edition, 1965.
cybernauts in Clarke's
story are always connected to each other, as components of a
via wireless internet connections in their heads. OMG.
I can't imagine a greater horror. The
hive mind is an alien concept, when you think about it,
and far removed from the independence
and individuality that we normally associate with
human beings. Read Harry Harrison's 1965 novel: Bill, the
My question is this: won't this
lead to degradation in verbal communication, to
devolution of language itself? When communication can
be done with a point and a click, or rather a look and a blink,
where is the need for words? Will we
devolve back into the apes from which we came? And will
future language be reduced to grunts and shrieks? Aren't we already
part way there?
And have I mentioned that
cell phone users are just plain rude? I think it is rude
to talk on your cell phone while sitting amid others. I was forced
to listen in on a private conversation while sitting in the waiting
room, as mentioned previously, at my dentist's office. The other
patients and I were literally hijacked
by an inconsiderate fellow
yammering on his cell phone for all to hear. We were
his cell phone hostages, until
he finally noticed our glances and glares and went elsewhere
to finish his so-called private conversation but not before dropping
an innuendo that made us all feel guilty for
eavesdropping. Give me a break.
bottom line is when people are talking on their cell
phones, or gaming, or texting manically with their thumbs, they
are not interacting with the people around them. I would like
to say that kind of behavior is abnormal. But
Psychology teaches that what
is normal is determined by the norm. And with everyone
texting, I am the one who is abnormal because I don't even own
a cell phone. My land line
and answering machine suffice. Thank you very much. So, you see,
I am an anachronism, a hold out,
someone clinging to the old norm.
Read the 1954 novel: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
to witness a shift in the norm.
Whereas our legends paint
vampires as monstrous
because they are different, it is
Robert Neville, the only human survivor of a
pandemic that has turned the population of
Earth into vampires,
who is now the abnormal one.
And when the vampires catch
Neville, he has
an epiphany. The world has become theirs. The
norm has been overturned. And, to the
vampires, he is the monster.
Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew
he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he
was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly,
the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain. ... Full circle.
A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable
fortress of forever. I am legend.
Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. Cover by Stanley Meltzoff.
New York: Gold Medal Books, First Edition, 1954.
Currently, with our
electrical grid intact and cell phone towers receiving
and transmitting continuously, the
antisocial norm marches on. And I am the abnormal one.
But one day, the grid will go down,
and then what? I'm not talking an intermittent glitch
in internet service. I'm talking major
electromagnetic pulse from a
solar storm, like the Carrington
Event of 1859 that
burned out telegraph systems
worldwide. But it will be worse now because we live in an
electronic age. And when everything
fries, it will take years, decades, and perhaps a century
to return to where we are today, if we ever do return. We will
be thrown back into the horse and
buggy era or perhaps we will revisit
the Middle Ages.
zombies in a bad Science Fiction
flick, the minions
without their working cell phones will wander the streets aimlessly,
their hive minds cut off from
each other. Ponder this: will
they still hold their now defunct
cell phones up to their ears and continue their
insane yammering? Will they still game or text although
their machines are fried and
no flashing lights or text appears on their lifeless screens?
And will we only then realize how insane our society has become?
Personally, I look forward to
the quiet. Silentium est aurum.