Home » Addressing Türkiye’s telephone zombies

Addressing Türkiye’s telephone zombies

The other morning, I was meditating on a large rock that sits along the shore of a river. I get up early to do this practice, which I really hoped would calm my mind.

The other morning, I was meditating on a large rock that sits along the shore of a river. I get up early to do this practice, which I really hoped would calm my mind. To get to this rock you have to cross over from another one so it certainly isn’t an easy task, but I do it and so far have been the only person I have seen actually going so far as to actually sit on this rock in the river. That is up until yesterday when two men in their 20s awoke me from my meditative state as they were crossing the river to get to my rock and were about to literally pounce on me in their white sneakers.

Suddenly awoken from my calm state, I asked what was happening and they said, “Can you leave so we can take a photo.” Shocked at the audacity and mumbling under my breath that I was meditating, I nonetheless immediately took off from my rock and crossed to the shore, while watching to see what they needed my rock for so pressingly. It turns out they just wanted to take a few photos of each other, posing in my previously meditative state to no less move on to other picturesque settings. From there I headed to my cafe, where everyone sitting around me was enjoying their expensive expresso drinks looking into their own “little black boxes.” Some were playing games, while others said they were trying to “relax” by scrolling through their social media.

Türkiye is no longer immune to the conundrum of telephone zombies. (Photo by Leyla Yvonne Ergil)
Türkiye is no longer immune to the conundrum of telephone zombies. (Photo by Leyla Yvonne Ergil)

As someone whose work is also conducted from a similar “black box,” i.e. my laptop, the last thing I personally want to do at a cafe among friends is to look at another even smaller “little box.” I mean, let’s be honest here, the act can hurt your neck, your eyes and certainly your morale and call me “old school,” but it is the opposite of the true social connections I seek in public venues. The experience itself makes me nostalgic for my own youth when my cheeks would hurt from laughter when sitting at a cafe with friends. These days, any chuckles seem to be garnered from a shared social media post.

For me personally, waking up in the morning to see what has happened in the social media world is a completely depressing act and has been proven to be so for others. Many believe it is relaxing, but multiple recent studies certainly prove otherwise. Instead, social media can make people envious, it poses unrealistic depictions of other people’s lives and as we all know filters alter their depiction. In addition, and albeit biased as a journalist, I don’t believe social media should serve as a single news source, especially as so many news items can easily be misrepresented and even manipulated. But yet, this is our current existence and even live musical performances and certainly, media such as films tend to mainly be consumed from behind a lens.

Iconic spots such as a rooftop in Sultanahmet, a swing over a flowing creek in Yuvarlakçay and a viewing spot in Cappadocia where the colorful hot air balloons soar in the vista are all characteristically known for serving as social media photo opportunities; whereas, in my opinion, each could very much serve as simple moments of inspiration and dare I say it, fun. For me, posting on social media seems like an ad for my lifestyle, which doesn’t feel authentic if I am not actually living it.

Alas, job applications these days tend to request social media accounts, so I do understand the valid need for many to have to in a sense brand themselves. But on a similar note, I also implore since when did Instagram messaging take the place of picking up the phone? Of course, there is also the benefit of gaining insight into the new people you meet through what they post. For me, the biggest criteria for new friends is the less, the better, that way if they don’t have a page full of unartistic selfies, I can understand that our characters and the value we place on our time is at least somewhat in line. Because I think we all can admit that the most valuable thing we have in our lives is time.

Yet many of us, don’t even realize how much of it is being spent looking at our phones. The average person is said to spend two-and-a-half hours a day on social media. According to my calculations that adds up to around 75 hours a month, which can be broken down into over three days. If you multiple this by 12 months, that’s 36 days spent either advertising your own or watching the ads of other people’s lives.

I could never even stay sitting on the couch when the commercial came on during the viewing of a sitcom and that was even joined by friends and family, and so now it just confounds me how people who have the choice now choose to watch advertisements rather than spend quality time with people. Our television viewing from streaming platforms may have eradicated ads, but now we as people choose to watch them in our own free time, at cafes and while sitting with friends.

Granted Türkiye is certainly not the biggest user and abuser of social media; in fact, the country falls into 27th place, according to a global ranking by Statistica. Türkiye sits just below the United States and above France, so this rant certainly isn’t solely directed at this country. This just happens to be where I live and have witnessed the great technological transition. One might be surprised to hear that 25 years ago when I first visited my father in Türkiye I had a cellphone, which was actually years earlier than when I owned one in my native Los Angeles.

So, Türkiye has always stood out as being technologically advanced and certainly inclined in my humble opinion. These days, statistics show over 80% of the country are social media users and around 66 million people are using the internet, with this figure increasing on average by 10% each year. That said, in most cases, you can’t even read a menu or enter certain buildings in Türkiye without having a smartphone, so what can people do?

I guess I just have to accept this is the way of the world these days and of course, it saves paper and the trees that provide it and the ink to print on them and so there are positives. It’s just important to be aware of what the benefits to new technology are and what some of the downfalls can be, which I believe is the time we spend “trying” to connect while losing the true value of social contact albeit due to faster internet connections.