The picture of a man at a train station without a phone, surrounded by a crowd of screen-staring Zombies, went viral all around the world. What is the dude doing? Why isn’t he holding a phone? What motivates him? – 7 questions to the guy, who took the picture.
German text version
When did you take this picture?
I took the picture on the platform at Petersham Station, on Thursday morning (6th Feb) at about 8:10 am. Petersham is a suburb in Sydney’s inner west, and it’s where I’ve lived for a few years. It’s not a major station, but all the same commuters catch their train there every morning; they even tend to choose the exact same carriage and door (even seat) every morning. I was, like the people in the photo, just on my way to work, waiting for the 8:12 train into the city. I was probably looking at my phone myself before I took the picture.
Do you know the staring-guy?
I have no idea who he is, unfortunately. It was only after I’d taken the picture that I noticed him in the background there and decided to draw a little circle around him.
Did he contact you, now that the picture went viral?
I don’t know if he’s seen the picture, though it’s definitely been retweeted and shared by people in Sydney so maybe he will eventually. I was a bit worried he might approach me on the platform this morning, and be annoyed at me for posting it. Or maybe he’d be proud! Actually, it’s the satchel-guy standing in the foreground I’d be more worried about – in the second photo (which I didn’t post) he’s staring right at me with an arched eyebrow as if to say „what are you doing?“.
Well I like to think people enjoyed the irony of me suggesting there’s something „wrong“ with the odd man out. Thousands of people have responded with their own joke-answers to the question, which is fun (And a handful of people kind of missed the joke…) But I think it’s the picture itself – it illustrates something that has become such a common sight all over the world: crowds of people in cities, on trains, in food courts, in schools – all with their heads bowed and their eyes glued to their devices. From all the responses to the pic it’s clear that just as many people find the sight funny as find it disturbing, depressing or even scary. A lot of people see themselves in that picture – not as the staring guy, but as one of the technologically-isolated ‚zombies‘ around him.
Would you consider yourself being one of these ‚Zombies‘?
I have been since this started getting retweets! But generally… yes, maybe! Like a lot of people these days, I tend to reach for my phone whenever I have a spare moment. I even take it with me to the toilet in case I get bored. It’s so many things to me these days, it’s a bit ridiculous – the other day I was reading an article on my phone and at the same time fumbling in my pocket looking for my phone.
Could you imagine a world without smartphones anymore?
You know what – yes! Because more of my life so far was spent before they arrived than after. I can even remember several years ago saying „Pfft. Why would I need my emails and the internet wherever I go?“ And yet here I am, one of the pack. I love those movies/TV shows where some alien or supernatural force interferes with electrical devices and suddenly all these comfortable isolated people are forced to talk to each other and rough it again.
You saw the ancient black and white picture of people reading newspapers. Do you think that comparison is fair?
You mean aside from that being a classic, historical photo, compared to a crappy low-res phone pic? They could be read as saying something very similar. One person still looking up at the world around them, with what could be interpreted as a concerned expression on their face, while surrounded by „infovores“. My mum taught me that word today – I’d never heard it before but apparently it’s been added to a dictionary this year. My mum! She probably read about it on her iPad.