On Being Online

On the first bus coming from the Hong Kong airport, I noticed that the bus had free WiFi, which I thought was a convenient feature.  I half-heartedly tried to sign onto the network to send a text ahead to my parents and I ran into a problem signing onto the acceptance page on my phone’s browser.  With nothing else to do, I looked around at the other people busing from the airport and all of them had their heads buried into their phones.  I thought nothing of it, as there were only a few passengers on the bus and turned my attention to the dazzling lights of Hong Kong.

I didn’t realize that this first encounter with the residents of Hong Kong was actually representative of a large part of the culture.  Coming from Western society, people have access to technology and can maintain an online connection throughout the day.  This is generally frowned upon, and there is a balance between too much online presence and being a social recluse.  Hong Kong is much more accepting and embracing of gaming culture, which I found to be a different perspective.  You would rarely find people on a bus in Vancouver who were playing a mobile game, but in Hong Kong it is rarer to find the opposite.

In Hong Kong, it is a norm to be on your phone.  I have walked into cafes where almost every head is staring down at a screen. One night, I watched a twenty-something customer walk into a busy café, sit down, and order, his eyes never leaving his phone.  When his food arrived, his free hand felt around for chopsticks and plunged straight into the dish.  He fished around to shovel some food into his mouth and missed.  Realizing that he had made a mess, his eyes finally tore away from his phone, and he yelped at the waitress, telling her that she brought him the wrong dish.  I mentally shook my head in disbelief.  The funny thing is that I can watch all this without anyone noticing because they are all stuck onto their phones.

I have seen signs on the streets warning people to look up from their phones to see cars and other people.  I have noticed couples staring at their own phones, holding hands and walking down the street.  I have seen grandchildren ignoring their grandparents plugged into their phones, and more surprisingly, grandparents ignore their grandchildren using their phones.  Phones used during driving are illegal in Hong Kong and extremely common.

I may be incredibly biased towards western notions and overly critical, but it irks me that people are becoming more attached to their phones.  I can’t help but feel that these people miss out on everything around them.

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