Put down the phone, zombie! – Trajan King

Put down the phone, zombie!

I ride my bike to work because it’s great exercise and a very calming way to start and end the workday. However, what I see drivers doing as they race past me has me terrified. They drive while looking at their cell phones!

Everyone thinks they’re an excellent driver, but the reality is most people are not. Including you (maybe, especially you.) That’s even without the distraction of their Instagram feed while driving. Recently, co-workers and I were driving to lunch and counted the number of people looking at their phones while driving. It was 80%!

I have a recurring daydream, or day nightmare. I arrive at the Pearly Gates and I realize I’m dead. Then it gets worse. I ask how I died and am informed I was hit by a car by someone who was mindlessly scrolling through their Facebook feed. I imagine the rage I would feel for eternity knowing that’s how I was taken out of this world. Something so useless and pointless. Think that I’m over-reacting and that’s an unfounded fear?

According to the NHTSA: 1
In 2016 alone, 3,450 people were killed. 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. Click To Tweet

During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes, but everyone is doing it.

Furthermore, 9 people die each day from distracted driving and distracted driving accounts for 25% of all crashes. 2

Zombie World

It’s not just driving. Being distracted on the phone has become an epidemic. How often are you hanging out with friends or family and look up from your phone to notice that everyone else is on their phones as well? We’ve become a world of zombies and it’s getting worse.

Cell phone addiction is causing serious problems. One of the big reasons is the social media accounts on those phone.

cell phone zombies

If you don’t think they’re dangerous, consider this: the very makers of those technologies don’t allow their kids to use it or they limit their use.

Tech elites, like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (inventor of the iPhone and iPad, obviously), restrict tech usage of their own children. Referring to the iPhone use by his kids, Jobs said, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

It’s apparent to anyone who has used technology that phones and apps are designed to be addictive, but what isn’t obvious is that overuse can lead to depression and may be linked to the increase in suicide.

Phone time and depression

A recent study found that an increase in the amount of time spent on the phone coincided with an increase in depression for teens.  It also noted that increases in rates of depression and suicide coincide with the increase in cell phone popularity.3

The research isn’t looking so good for the effects of high phone usage:

Research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. Click To Tweet
Depression in Paris

To illustrate how someone may experience depression from social media, let me tell you about when my wife and I lived in Paris. One of the most beautiful and inspiring cities in the world, which is visited by millions.  We were fortunate to live there for nearly a year.

During our time in the city of lights, we both spent too much time on our phones. My wife complained that I was looking at my phone so much that I often forgot about her.  Meanwhile, she was scrolling through Instagram and becoming envious of the lives of some of her friends.

She soon realized the ridiculous irony of being envious of what she was seeing on Instagram while living in Paris on a semi-permanent vacation. We both changed our habits when we realized what was happening to us.

Tech execs and their phone usage

Given these factors, it’s no wonder tech executives restrict the cell phone usage of their children.

Other former executives are speaking out about the harmful effects of the social media they created.  One former Facebook executive warned that “You are being programmed” and “social media is tearing apart the fabric of society.”

Tristan Harris, a former Facebook executive described one of the ways social media is engineered to be addictive by giving us a dopamine rush when we use it.  The notifications icons (the alarm bell or icon that shows up when you have email) were originally blue to match the rest of the site, but were changed to red when they tested it and found that because red is a trigger color, people responded to it better. That’s why red is used as an alarm signal everywhere.

A similar phenomenon happens when you scroll. Your brain has the same response that you might have when pulling the lever of a slot machine. It’s exciting because you don’t know what you’re going to get.  That how you can start scrolling and 10 minutes (or an hour) can go by without notice. It was designed that way.

Cell phone distraction

Cell phone distraction and addiction has become a serious problem.  One that nearly everyone, including me, struggles with. Just like the myth of multi-tasking, we all think we can check our cell phones without being distracted.  We think we can give the real world continuous partial attention.

However, studies have shown that even having your phone on desk damages your concentration.4,5

On average people check their phones 80-150 times a day.6 and touch it 2,617 times a day! 7. That’s just the average. Many people even check their phones at in the middle of the night. Maybe you’re one of them.

The CEO of AMC movie theaters described how this phenomenon is changing our society. When asked about recent changes to their cell phone policy, he said, “when you tell a 22 year old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear ‘please cut off your left arm above the elbow’…”

What do we do?

So what can you do to ensure you’re not addicted?

How about some AR (Actual Reality) glasses:

Here are some rules I try to live by that have really helped me focus and regain my time:

  1. Turn off the phone after 9pm and turn it back on at 8am. Many phones have a feature that does this for you.
  2. Whenever I’m with a person, keep my phone in my pocket. I don’t leave it on the table and I don’t check it if it beeps. When I’m with someone, having a discussion, they always take priority.
  3. Turn off ALL notifications, except texts and phone calls.
  4. Have a phone free day.  That day for me is Sunday. On Sundays I leave my phone in a drawer and don’t respond to texts or check my apps.
  5. Never check texts while driving. Use the automatic “do not disturb” feature the iPhone now has that turns on while you’re moving.
  6. Always drive hands free (with headphones)

Cell phones and social media can be very beneficial to our lives. They do so many amazing things that help us be more connected and more productive. In fact, it’s difficult to be without a cell phone now.  Try going somewhere you’ve never been without GPS. Good luck! Without a phone you’re cut off from your friends and what’s happening around you.

It’s important to realize the dangers, many of them subtle, and manage ourselves and take control of our usage so we’re not a danger to others or ourselves.

What do you do to take control of your phone and social media?

Also, the social commentary of Steve Cutts’ illustrations is brilliant. Definitely worth a look at his website SteveCutts.com.

cell phone prison


  1. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
  2. https://www.teensafe.com/distracted-driving/100-distracted-driving-facts-and-statistics-2018/
  3. https://news.utexas.edu/2017/06/26/the-mere-presence-of-your-smartphone-reduces-brain-power
  4. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/691462
  5. https://priceonomics.com/which-generation-is-most-distracted-by-their/
  6. https://www.businessinsider.com/dscout-research-people-touch-cell-phones-2617-times-a-day-2016-7

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Trajan King

Hey hey. I'm Trajan. I'm a minimalist entrepreneur who loves exploring the world (42 countries), learning new things (7 languages) and trying to get better every day (working on my backsquat).

I write about entrepreneurship and building an optimized and happy life through systems, good habits and scientific research.

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