Sat, Jul 28, 2012 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: New group fights phone addiction

SOCIALLY CORROSIVE:Social commentator Nan Fang Shuo observed that information is not knowledge and said that people are filling their heads with rubbish

By Hu Ching-hui, Meng Ching-tzu and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with Staff Writer

Smartphones set on vibrate are piled on top of each other as a group of friends enjoy a chat in Taipei earlier this month.

Photo: courtesy of a student surnamed Chen

Fed up with watching your friends glued to a smartphone at the dinner table, or your girlfriend or boyfriend seemingly more interested in updating their Facebook status than you? A new movement called “Lift up your head, look at me” (抬頭, 看我) has recently prompted heated online discussion.

Netizen Tsai A-ka (蔡阿嘎), who has produced two short video clips in reaction to current social events, appeared in a recent mineral water commercial and a music video to promote the movement, urging more focus on person-to-person interaction amid the rapid expansion of the “heads-down tribe” (低頭族) — a term that doctors and researchers in Taiwan have adopted to describe smartphone addicts who are increasingly susceptible to traffic accidents, physical illness or feelings of psychological isolation.

Since being uploaded to YouTube on May 19, the clips have been watched about 700,000 times.

“I am a smartphone user, but never an Internet addict. There are no game applications on my cellphone, which I only use to access the Internet when I am waiting for someone and get bored,” Tsai said.

An increasing number of people are becoming smartphone addicts, a trend that appears to be more prevalent in the north of the country than the south, the online celebrity said.

“What bothers me most is how people mouth platitudes when a group of friends get together before returning to their mobile phones. If this situation continues, such people are going to find they have no friends,” Tsai said.

In addition to the novel social campaign, college students across the country are being encouraged to play a new game called Phone Stack, which seeks to address the issue of social rudeness.

Invented by a Californian who became annoyed at the ubiquitous nature of improper dinner etiquette, the game requires participants meeting in a restaurant or other public venue to place their cellphones facedown in the center of the table and not to touch them until the event ends.

The first person to reach for their cellphone has to pay the bill.

National University of Tainan student Chen Wei (陳蔚), who has taken part in such events, said she came away with a good impression because people were more engaging and open to conversation when forced to put away their mobile phones.

Chen said smartphone addicts are commonplace at restaurants and as soon as one person picks up their cellphone, everyone else at the same table simply follows suit.

“To be honest, [most people] just slide their fingers across the screens when there isn’t much going on,” Chen said, adding that she planned to hold a Phone Stack activity of her own if she can find the time.

A student from Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Hsiao Shou-cheng (蕭守成), also applauded such events.

Hsiao said that he had played the restaurant game about three times and found everyone taking part to be surprisingly cooperative and having fun.

“It takes intelligence to use a smartphone,” said Taiwanese cartoonist Ron Chu (朱德庸), who, despite being a smartphone user, rejects becoming too reliant on such technology.

“We are the masters of the mobile phone, not the other way around,” Chu said.

As a popular Chinese-language cartoonist, Chu said his old cellphone, which he used for seven years, had only three functions; making and receiving telephone calls, and sending text messages.

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