Social Media Zombies

A few days ago I had to change planes on my way home from Budapest. I was supposed to spend no more than an hour at Sabiha Gokcen airport, which is Istanbul’s second airport (there will soon be a third) but because delays are now the norm rather than the exception at this airport, I was not surprised to see my departure time slip in half hour increments until we eventually had a one hour forty five minute delay. Despite Sabiha Gokcen’s modern terminal being less than 7 years old the design and fittings of its Domestic section ensures it is one of Europe’s most uncomfortable airports to spend any length of time in. I would personally rank it 3rd worst airport in Europe just behind the bus shelter experience of London’s Luton airport and the cold-steel chairs of Frankfurt.

Social Media ZombiesPhoto care of Steve Cutts

Ever increasing passenger volumes obviously contribute to delays, which inevitably contribute to unbearable overcrowding, where a growing number of passengers must use the floor instead of the limited number of chairs. So it came as quite a shock when I eventually fought my way through security and pushed through the throng towards my distant gate and arrived into an area of near silence. The area was packed as usual with about a dozen passengers having spilled onto the floor. You may imagine they were all somehow sleeping at 4pm in the afternoon or that they were a large group of nuns or holy men quietly contemplating the universe. But they were just the normal mix of passengers flying down to Bodrum: a few less head-scarved women than for the flights further east, a few European holiday makers regretting their unwise decision to break their journey at Istanbul to save money and a sprinkling Vomits (Victims of Men in Turkey), middle aged European women with over-dyed hair and wearing mutton dressed as lamb clothes, all flying home to their much younger Turkish, or should I say Kurdish boyfriends, who are at various stages of bleeding these delusional women dry.

There I go – digressing again – perhaps I will inevitably have to relent soon to the many requests to do a follow up to my Vomit piece of a few years ago, but for now back to the airport.

The reason for the uncanny silence at the Bodrum gate was because almost everyone there seemed to be mesmerised by their phone or some other device, reading, taping it or scrolling; some people were actually talking into the phone – whatever next? All remained calm as I stepped gingerly over the legs of the people sitting on the floor on my way towards the gate now flashing ‘Last Call,’ until a woman carrying a selection of over-priced pastries suddenly tripped over a stray foot. You may imagine that I would not be the only person helping this poor woman to her feet in a crowded room but I was. However, what was more disturbing was the fact that at least half a dozen of these people had photographed the incident and I suspect, even before I had brushed the pastry based debris from my trousers, had posted the incident on Instagram, Twitter, facebook or whatever.

It is hard to pin-point the moment that social media interest rolled over to social media addiction but I suspect for many it was long before the condition was officially recognised as an addiction by the UK’s National Health Service in 2013.

London based psychiatrist Richard Graham is one of many clinicians now dealing with the problem and he described these core early indications in addicts:

They start to miss or avoid doing the necessary things in life, even at a fundamental level of self-care. They delay eating or avoid eating or drinking, delay sleep, miss meetings or delay getting into work or college.

Ringing any alarm bells?!

Dr Graham treats around 100 social media addicts every year, ranging from very young kids to adults in their mid-30s; there are even one or two professional football players. Judi James, another expert explained that addiction comes when “people are using [social media] when they already have company – or are even out on dates. Or they are sitting up most of the night rather than getting some sleep. Social media should be a way to complete your social life, not replace it. An exaggerated use of social media can have the opposite effect and result in increased feelings of loneliness,” she points out.

Instagram is Down
Photo care of Ian Grace-Penny

Are You an addict… yet?

10 Symptoms you are a Social Media Zombie.

1. You can’t get to the main course in a restaurant before you get out your phone and instagram the prawn cocktail. Ideally, you would chronicle the bread basket within three minutes of arriving. Because, frankly, a romantic meal for two isn’t a romantic meal for two unless you have shared it with all your followers.
2. The very first thing you do when you wake up is reach for your phone or i-pad (always by the side of your bed, in fact – usually under your pillow) and check how many times your witty comment from the night before has been retweeted or liked. You often do this before you have even left the bed.
3.  Your children catch you trying to post Facebook updates while reading their bedtime stories. You know it’s seriously bad when you agree that you will pay them 25p every time they bust you. It has got out of control when they can buy an XBox with the proceeds.
4. You cannot visit a toilet without using the 27 available seconds to investigate how many people have liked your photo. Snapchatting a selfie while sitting on the loo is proof you have stopped understanding basic decent behaviour. Rather sadly, we now swipe, tap, scroll and wipe.
5.  Linda from accounts, on a Monday morning, asks how was your weekend. And your first reaction is “What? did you not see all the amazing photos I posted on Instagram? How can you not know that I had a great time?” But what you actually say: “Er, it was nice. Thanks.” And then think, I must un-follow Linda, the ungrateful bitch.
6.  You “like” your own updates on Facebook. You “favourite” your own Tweets. You “like” your own instagram pics. You “pin” selfies on Pinterest. Stop it… stop it Now.
7. You “check in” at Metro stations on the way to work. You “check in” when you go out to get your lunch, you “check in” at the pub after work. You want to “check in” when you get home, but you suddenly realise that though you have remembered your phone (of course), you have forgotten your keys.
8.  The first thing you do on hearing that someone famous has died is to Wiki their career and urgently, in a panicky rush, find the obscurest fact you can find about them so that you can post an update. “So sad about #Prince. Of course, his greatest achievement was being invited to sing at the Pope’s birthday party. #RIP”
9.  Someone tells you a joke, and instead of laughing out loud, you use the phrase “lol”. As in, you actually open your mouth and instead of uttering the purest, most instinctive proof of humanity, a laugh, you say “lol.” But then you do laugh at your own cleverness.
10.  Watching Game of Thrones/Downton/X-Factor your anxiety levels rise to almost unbearable levels as you desperately try to be the first person on your timeline to tweet “Has Simon had too much work done?”

Don’t become a social media zombie… STOP IT NOW – BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! Or you may just end up like one of these two:

Stay on the safe side, keep your devices away when you are having a moment with someone. And if you do feel that temptation to grab your phone, be strong!


Germ Cloud ID

In the past few months I have heard more and more stories about how a new, potential fool proof way of identifying who we are will be the next step in personal security. Forget palm prints, forget the iris or even face recognition because the next big thing could be the Germ Cloud.

Each of us has a unique germ cloud containing millions of bugs, which can be more personal than fingerprints. Scientists can now identify individuals from a group just by sampling the microbes and other particles in the air around them. Every ones germ cloud has its own unique signature, which varies from person to person that can be analysed. Our individual microbe rich clouds could soon be used in forensic investigations and it won’t be too long before the technology is available to track our movements or locate someone in a large crowd.

Germ Cloud
Photo by PhotoComiX

Humans will typically shed more than a million microscopic particles from their skin, breath and hair every hour most of which contain traces of their recent environment and some of the thousands of different types of bacteria, which typically lives in and around us. Lead researcher Dr James Meadow said ‘We expected that we would be able to detect the human microbiome in the air around a person, but we could identify most of the occupants (in a room) just by sampling their microbial cloud.’ The University of Oregon study, published by Peer J also suggests that this technology will soon give us a new insight into the way infectious diseases are spread and how they can take hold in some populations while being resisted in other areas of the world.

All fascinating stuff but perhaps one day they can take it a little further and detect the bugs we are prone to shed typically when we are lying or frightened, or perhaps when we are excited or even depressed. Why stop there – what kind of signature would a mixture of hubris, bullshit and out and out racism smell like to one of these machines? Would the Republican cartoon-candidate Donald Trump perhaps leave a trail of all those microbes that are supposed to live in and on our money. Or would there be an essence of some good old boy red-neck lynching, the soot particles from burning books or now, as he has become the poster boy for every kind of racist up to the Klu Klux Klan, would the machine pick up the essence of gasoline from a burning cross swirling around him?

Trump and KKK pic
Photo care of

However, despite sometimes using the rhetoric and style of Adolf Hitler to press the big red racist button, Donald Trump is not quite in the same war criminal club yet? People like Bashar al-Assad or Joseph Kony, or even Vladimir Putin who would surely have some traces of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet downed by a Russian SAM missile in his germ cloud or because he has almost single handedly kept the Syrian war going to preserve Russia’s bases in the Mediterranean and deliberately destabilize Europe because of the Migrant Crisis, wouldn’t he also share some of Assad’s swirling cloud of bacterial traces from the death and decay of almost half a million people – 20,000 of them children?

Assad killer poster

Perhaps the International Criminal Court could eventually use the germ cloud technology to track these war criminals down and bring them to justice. Perhaps not… while the likes of Joseph Kony may be within their grasp I fear the true criminals, the much bigger fish like Putin and the many other state leaders who fight their proxy wars in other people’s counties, will always enjoy implied immunity at the ICC. Even Assad is likely to be spirited away to Iran or some Arab country to enjoy a long retirement, without fear of prosecution, when he is finally forced to let go of his murderous hold on Syria in exchange for some kind of immunity from prosecution. No it isn’t right – but this is what we have allowed our leaders to create on our behalf. So we must live with it until we have the courage and the power to change the ever more outrageous and darkening script of world history.