Smartphone-crazy Thailand’s growing problem with online junkies

Reading Time: 4 minutes

BTS smartphoneThailand is one of the most smartphone-crazy countries in Asia, if not in the world, with statistics saying that Thais are spending an average of 2.5 hours a day on their device, with the most heavily used social media platforms being Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Line.

Figures just released by Facebook on its user base in Southeast Asia show that it has more than 241 million users in the region, with 37 million users, a whopping 15.4 per cent, in Thailand, and growing. Most of them are younger than 30 years and can be found across all social classes.

This has led to the paradox situation that social media made many young people behave anti-social in the sense that they stopped being responsive to their real environment, a fact that visitors are increasingly getting aware of.

It is absolutely not rare to see two or more people in a restaurant all gawping into their mobile phones with very limited to no conversation. Many people even stare into their phone while walking on the pavement, completely ignorant of their blocking other pedestrians while answering to Facebook or Line messages.

Kasetsart University Mobile phone laneThis, for example, has prompted Bangkok’s Kasetsart University in a so far unique move to divide the footpath leading to its campus into a “smartphone lane” and a normal lane to accommodate tardy students who were sick of bumping into smartphone junkies on their way to class. Interestingly, the walking smartphone users didn’t notice the new lane provided for them at first and just learned from it through the university’s Facebook page.

Bangkok’s public transport systems, both the subway and the Skytrain, have become so conversation-free due to excessive smartphone-staring that one could hear a needle drop if there wasn’t the natural noise of the train driving along the rails. The BTS Skytrain in the last weeks saw itself forced to affix posters at frequented stations warning commuters that addictive use of smartphones can lead to problems with body posture, damage to spine and neck, to sore eyes, accident-related injuries, and inattention to possible pickpockets. Smartphone gadget firms also discovered the phenomenon and are now posting ads in the BTS that, among others, offer radiation films for smartphones to reduce the exposure to potentially dangerous monitor rays that exaggerated smartphone use brings with it.

Some foreign visitors starting voicing their anger that, when inviting a Thai date to a restaurant, they in most cases get rewarded by having to stare at their companion typing on the smartphone or checking feeds by the minute instead of having a meaningful or at least functional conversation. The habit of making selfies at any given situation or sending pictures of the food currently consumed also took on a dramatic scale.

BTS smartphone2While mobile phone industry representatives argue that increased use of mobile Internet and online apps would make people more “productive” and “attentive” to the outside world, critics say it’s exactly the opposite, liking smartphone junkies to “comatose young people so intent on their phones they have no idea what’s going on around them” and instead indulge in the “exchange of useless information and in virtual attention seeking.”

In fact, studies on excessive smartphone use say that, apart from the mentioned health problems, people are becoming anti-social, online-addicted and are in danger to develop a problem called obsessive-compulsive disorder or even depression when they get cut off from the Internet for some reason.

Studies also revealed an enormous impact of the mobile phone on contemporary society from a social scientific perspective as they have transformed social practices by replacing face-to-face conversations with cyber conversations. Problems usually start with social disorders and can lead to sociopathy, depression and stress and ultimately can affect sleeping and eating cycles.

DSC_0003
Campaign at Bangkok Skytrain stations

In terms of productivity, at least in case of Thailand’s young people, smartphones are apparently rarely used for work-related tasks. The vast majority of smartphone addicts in the BTS, for example, can just be seen browsing Facebook feeds of their friends or exchanging childish Line emojis in consistence with the immanent urges of young Thais to share gossip and be part of a group of friends, even if it’s just a virtual group. The use of emails, the most important communication tool for business, is instead grossly underrepresented. In fact, Thailand also ranks first in Asia as a market with more smartphone users than PCs.

Economically, the smartphone addiction also adds to Thailand’s private debt problem. Young people often carry smartphones that cost the equivalent of one monthly wage and are replacing them surprisingly often. Costly airtime for mobile online use also adds to overspending.

In pure numbers, Thailand is one of the leading countries in smartphone adoption, with the user base expected to reach 25 million by 2017, from a modest 14.4 million in 2013. A smartphone adoption rate of 64 per cent makes the country one of the top 10 countries in Asia-Pacific. This consumption is set to increase with the advent of fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband service as the demand for content, especially video content, will grow.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thailand is one of the most smartphone-crazy countries in Asia, if not in the world, with statistics saying that Thais are spending an average of 2.5 hours a day on their device, with the most heavily used social media platforms being Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Line.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

BTS smartphoneThailand is one of the most smartphone-crazy countries in Asia, if not in the world, with statistics saying that Thais are spending an average of 2.5 hours a day on their device, with the most heavily used social media platforms being Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Line.

Figures just released by Facebook on its user base in Southeast Asia show that it has more than 241 million users in the region, with 37 million users, a whopping 15.4 per cent, in Thailand, and growing. Most of them are younger than 30 years and can be found across all social classes.

This has led to the paradox situation that social media made many young people behave anti-social in the sense that they stopped being responsive to their real environment, a fact that visitors are increasingly getting aware of.

It is absolutely not rare to see two or more people in a restaurant all gawping into their mobile phones with very limited to no conversation. Many people even stare into their phone while walking on the pavement, completely ignorant of their blocking other pedestrians while answering to Facebook or Line messages.

Kasetsart University Mobile phone laneThis, for example, has prompted Bangkok’s Kasetsart University in a so far unique move to divide the footpath leading to its campus into a “smartphone lane” and a normal lane to accommodate tardy students who were sick of bumping into smartphone junkies on their way to class. Interestingly, the walking smartphone users didn’t notice the new lane provided for them at first and just learned from it through the university’s Facebook page.

Bangkok’s public transport systems, both the subway and the Skytrain, have become so conversation-free due to excessive smartphone-staring that one could hear a needle drop if there wasn’t the natural noise of the train driving along the rails. The BTS Skytrain in the last weeks saw itself forced to affix posters at frequented stations warning commuters that addictive use of smartphones can lead to problems with body posture, damage to spine and neck, to sore eyes, accident-related injuries, and inattention to possible pickpockets. Smartphone gadget firms also discovered the phenomenon and are now posting ads in the BTS that, among others, offer radiation films for smartphones to reduce the exposure to potentially dangerous monitor rays that exaggerated smartphone use brings with it.

Some foreign visitors starting voicing their anger that, when inviting a Thai date to a restaurant, they in most cases get rewarded by having to stare at their companion typing on the smartphone or checking feeds by the minute instead of having a meaningful or at least functional conversation. The habit of making selfies at any given situation or sending pictures of the food currently consumed also took on a dramatic scale.

BTS smartphone2While mobile phone industry representatives argue that increased use of mobile Internet and online apps would make people more “productive” and “attentive” to the outside world, critics say it’s exactly the opposite, liking smartphone junkies to “comatose young people so intent on their phones they have no idea what’s going on around them” and instead indulge in the “exchange of useless information and in virtual attention seeking.”

In fact, studies on excessive smartphone use say that, apart from the mentioned health problems, people are becoming anti-social, online-addicted and are in danger to develop a problem called obsessive-compulsive disorder or even depression when they get cut off from the Internet for some reason.

Studies also revealed an enormous impact of the mobile phone on contemporary society from a social scientific perspective as they have transformed social practices by replacing face-to-face conversations with cyber conversations. Problems usually start with social disorders and can lead to sociopathy, depression and stress and ultimately can affect sleeping and eating cycles.

DSC_0003
Campaign at Bangkok Skytrain stations

In terms of productivity, at least in case of Thailand’s young people, smartphones are apparently rarely used for work-related tasks. The vast majority of smartphone addicts in the BTS, for example, can just be seen browsing Facebook feeds of their friends or exchanging childish Line emojis in consistence with the immanent urges of young Thais to share gossip and be part of a group of friends, even if it’s just a virtual group. The use of emails, the most important communication tool for business, is instead grossly underrepresented. In fact, Thailand also ranks first in Asia as a market with more smartphone users than PCs.

Economically, the smartphone addiction also adds to Thailand’s private debt problem. Young people often carry smartphones that cost the equivalent of one monthly wage and are replacing them surprisingly often. Costly airtime for mobile online use also adds to overspending.

In pure numbers, Thailand is one of the leading countries in smartphone adoption, with the user base expected to reach 25 million by 2017, from a modest 14.4 million in 2013. A smartphone adoption rate of 64 per cent makes the country one of the top 10 countries in Asia-Pacific. This consumption is set to increase with the advent of fourth-generation (4G) wireless broadband service as the demand for content, especially video content, will grow.

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