On my walk home from the train station the other day I passed through a nearby park, as I do every evening. It’s normally dark at the time I’m making this journey, and the park is so poorly lit that it’s practically pitch black, even just after 6pm.
Previously, I’ve seen a person urinating, I’ve seen a guy presumably passed out (but possibly dead) against a fence, and I’ve also seen teens making out on the play equipment. What these people have in common is the preference for darkness and the anonymity it creates, and I’m always fine to leave them to their activities, marching on and listening to music as I think about what’s for dinner, and why it’s not always tacos.
So you can imagine my surprise when I happened across what looked like the disembodied head of an Asian girl about 14 years old standing in the middle of the darkness. What the fuck was she doing other than being terrifying? Why was she unsupervised in an unlit park at night? Was she a ghost? Was she doing a Peter Dutton impersonation?
No. It turns out her face was lit up by her phone screen, as nearly all kids faces are these days, and she was wandering around, completely oblivious to me, looking for something. I let her be.
Then, as I reached the other side of the park, a Mitsubishi Lancer pulled up hastily and, with the car still running, a woman in her early-to-mid 20s jumped out. Was she the parent of the child, wondering where her spawn was? Was she a child abductor about to take this unattended youngster?
No. She also immediately withdrew her phone and started wandering around like someone with dementia, looking for something in the pitch black with her car still running. Also completely oblivious to me. Was I dead like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense? Had a truck actually run over me on Glossop Street? And if it had – why was my spirit still walking home thinking of tacos?
It turns out these people were engaged in the latest worldwide addiction– playing Pokemon Go. They were aimlessly wandering around a park looking for a Japanese creature that wasn’t really there, staring blindly into their phones, completely unaware of their surrounds.
LET ME BE CLEAR – I have no problem with computer games. I’ve always sided with gamers when it comes to debates about the value or detriment that they are adding to society. Yes, any kid can become an idiot if they spend too much time looking at a screen, but that in itself is a debate as old as television. I’m also OK with flavours of the month being plastered all over social media, mainly because I know how to block it.
I am also very aware of the fact that I’m a cynic.
NOW, since my confusing run in with these two individuals, all I see are people playing this game. They’re in parks, train stations and all over sidewalks – and they’re all the same, staring blindly at their phones, being led in a direction they’re not even consciously aware of so that they can obtain a non-existent reward for an app that helps their phone broadcast their whereabouts at all times.
Even in the news I’ve read some interesting stories about the things that take place while people are trying to ‘catch them all’. First there was the girl who happened across a dead body. There have been serious car crashes occurring to people who, like the woman I saw the other night, pull their cars over randomly to try and catch a Pokemon (which also means they’re using their phones while driving), people have been robbed at gun/knifepoint by other users, people are getting trapped in public places that have closed while they seek out these things and a litany of people are tripping over, bumping into things and injuring themselves because they’re too goddam busy looking at their phones to notice where they’re going.
Even I, dear reader, have had the indignity of trying to walk behind fuckwits who are so oblivious to their surroundings that they can’t notice PEOPLE in their immediate vicinity.
My problem is not so much the game as it is our vapid obsession with smartphones. I’m sick of being stuck behind people who can’t go the length of a staircase without getting their phone out, who can’t drive a car or walk somewhere without ignoring their surroundings for the sake of a few square inches of crap.
But I’ve also seen a number of Pokemon Go users on social media getting all narky about people criticising the game, arguing certain defences. These people need to lighten the fuck up and also take a look at themselves. They’ll usually say one of the following;
It gets people outside and that can only be a good thing.
For all of the reasons I’ve already listed, I’d suggest THIS ARGUMENT IS FUCKING STUPID. What’s the point of going outside if you’re not going to embrace and experience it? What’s the point in going outside if the only reason you’re doing it is to look at your fucking phone? You’re going outside because your phone is telling you to. As proven by the people getting locked in places and falling over shit, sending you people outside can also be a bad thing. People suggest that there’s an exercise benefit to it, but if you were getting so little beforehand that you think going on sporadic walks is an increase worth making a big deal about, there’s a good chance any effect it’s having on you is negligible and that you were doing far too little exercise in the first place.
It alleviates depression and encourages social interaction
Depression is a curse and a detriment to our society, but there are a whole bunch of studies linking excessive phone use and depression – plenty more than there are linking Pokemon Go to any tangible change in your mental state. You are indeed experiencing a change in your head, but as someone who’s been through addiction I’m pretty sure that what you’re feeling is the endorphin high that any activity we deem ‘pleasurable’ creates within us, whether we’re getting high or gaining some other kind of reward. Yes, playing Pokemon Go is no doubt healthier physically than imbibing drugs and alcohol or gambling (though it’s similar to a poker machine in ways), but the reaction is the same. What makes you think it’s different is the fact that millions of other people from a wide range of demographics all over the world are also experiencing the same thing, and in your head (and theirs) this justifies your perception of a positive influence. This does not make it true.
It brings people together out in public
This is comparable to the ‘outside’ argument. It’s great that you’re going outside and interacting with people, but stop for a moment and realise that had it not been for a mobile phone app, you wouldn’t have. Perhaps instead of lauding the app you should be using it as a wake-up call, realising what your life had become and taking other steps thank Pokemon to rectify the situation.
And I suppose that’s my problem. It’s not so much the way society is going, or the fact I have to share said society with dumbshits who can’t look away from their devices, or the fact that thanks to Pokemon I have to walk behind or around more of them than I ever have before. These things are constants that aren’t going anywhere, and they’re only going to get worse. I know and accept it.
It’s the fact that you people can’t take any flack, or criticism without getting defensive and refusing to look within yourselves. Hell, it’s not even that – it’s that you have to come up with these ridiculous excuses to justify your behaviour. Just deal with it and tell people to fuck off if they want to pick on you about it. If we have to accept your alleged truths, you should accept some too.
Or just go and write an angry blog.