Digital Zombie

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A student walking distracted with his smartphone at Seneca College, Newnham Campus

A Digital Zombie, as stated by the University of Sydney, is a person so engaged with digital technology and/or social media they are unable to separate themselves from a persistent online presence.[1] Further, University of Sydney researcher Andrew Campbell also expressed concerns over whether or not the individual can truly live a full and healthy life while they are preoccupied with the digital world.[1] Other individuals have also begun referencing certain types of behaviour with being a Digital Zombie. Stefanie Valentic, associate editor of EHS Today, refers to it as people hunting digital creatures through their smartphones in public spaces, always fixed on their phones.[2] The University of Warwick has used the term to argue that further research needs to be done with people who exist in digital form after death to help people grieve their loss.[3]

Modern Applications[edit]

Distracted Walking[edit]

A Digital Zombie can refer to a person performing distracted walking, which has been labelled dangerous by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. They created the "Digital Deadwalkers" campaign after physicians became aware of the risks associated with walking across intersections and sidewalks while paying attention only to smartphones and not one's surroundings. Also stating that the name is derived from the fact that "they're oblivious to everyone else, so it's like they're dead-walking, sleepwalking."[4]

Living Through Media[edit]

The Department of Sociology, University of Warwick has also identified the term, digital zombie, to refer to an individual who has died but "lives" again through a digital self on a digital medium. After the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, relatives asked for the Facebook profile pages of the victims of the shootings to remain online so that they can post messages in the process of handling their grief. This phenomenon uses digital technology to help people grieve for love ones. Researchers at the University of Warwick have called for more research into the area of human-computer interaction.[3]

Mobile Gaming[edit]

Writer for EHS Today, Stefanie Valentic, has made observations with the mobile phone video game Pokemon Go, which offers players the experience to hunt and collect digital creatures called Pokemon through their smartphone in real world. Players can be observed simultaneously gazing at their phone while also obliviously walking around their environments looking for Pokemon. Stefanie references these individuals as "Digital Zombies" since they walk around with no cognition of their surroundings while engaged with their phone.[2]

Zombie Computers[edit]

One of the first references to Digital Zombie was in 2008 by the New York Times, advising people that their personal computers were not safe. The newspaper stated malicious software existed that would turn your computer into a zombie computer. While under its influence, your computer would connect to botnets and carry out operations without the owners knowledge or consent.[5]

Health Risks[edit]

Heavy Use of Technology[edit]

Research by the University of Sydney has begun looking at how new technology such as digital media and smartphones impact our lives and questioning whether they can create new compulsions and obsessions.[1] The research demonstrates that increased heavy technological use can have negative health consequences similar to drugs, smoking, and alcohol.[1] Marcel O'Gorman, an associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo, has commented on the body of research examining how technology impacts cognition, stating currently that there is no empirical evidence to support any theories that suggest that technology can damage memory and attention span.[6]

Heightened Risk to Children[edit]

Manfred Spitzer, a German psychiatrist, has raised concerns with providing digital devices to children. During the early childhood stage while their brains are rapidly growing, increased exposure to digital devices may deprive them of necessary development required to facilitate brain growth. These concerns are also shared by Korean doctors who believe giving digital devices, like smartphones to children, limits their cognitive development.[7] The American Academy of Pediatrics has also suggested that screen use for children under should be extremely limited.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "From creatures of habit to digital zombies – are we all addicts now?". The University of Sydney. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  2. ^ a b "Sincerely Stefanie: Pokémon NO! Protecting Your Workers from Digital Zombies". EHS Today. 2016-07-12. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  3. ^ a b Bassett, Debra; Bassett, Debra J. (December 2015). "Who Wants to Live Forever? Living, Dying and Grieving in Our Digital Society". Social Sciences. 4 (4): 1127–1139. doi:10.3390/socsci4041127.
  4. ^ "Avoiding a digital zombie apocalypse". Modern Healthcare. 14 December 2018.
  5. ^ Markoff, John. "Beware the digital zombies". Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  6. ^ O'Gorman, Marcel (2015-02-18). "Taking Care of Digital Dementia". CTheory. 0 (0): 2–18/2015. ISSN 1190-9153.
  7. ^ Ryall, Julian (2013-06-24). "Surge in 'digital dementia'". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  8. ^ "Digital Media Symposium" (PDF). American Academy of Pediatrics.