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Are You A “Smombie”?

by Joani Schultz

Ever seen a “smombie”?

I have.

And the sight scares me.

Combine a smartphone with a zombie—and you get a “smombie.”

Humans walking like zombies, faces down. All mesmerized by their smartphones. Never making eye contact with other smombies.

Smombies have reached epidemic proportions. In fact, a University of Washington study discovered one in three of us is preoccupied with a smart phone or other electronic device at risky road crossings. Yet we smombies don’t even realize we’re in danger!

Technology fixation is not just dangerous while we are ambulatory. Hearing loss, sedentary weight gain, sleep disruption, and damage to the eyes, neck, wrist, and fingers are all connected to excessive smartphone use. In addition, media multitasking contributes to poor attention span, depression, and anxiety.

We smombies have a problem. Not only a physical issue, but a relational one.


Like for all “diseases,” we look to cures. Lots of solutions attack symptoms but don’t really address the root cause.

Here’s what I mean:

The city of Augsburg, Germany installed traffic lights embedded in the sidewalks to make signals more obvious because smombies don’t look up. Look around you at restaurants. Who of us hasn’t been guilty of spending more time looking at a device than the one(s) we’re eating with? Um, I confess.

So to attack the deeper relational issue, not just the symptoms, what can we do to combat becoming a smombie?



It’s intriguing to me that “mindfulness” is so popular these days. All mindfulness means is “be in the moment.” Soak in the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings around you. Pause, look up, and savor. In a way, being in the moment means you’re tuned in to relationships—with the Creator, the waiter, or the cheese grater!

Smombies are dead to the world around them; you can be alive to the moment.


Practicing the skill of noticing brings us closer to the heart of Jesus—loving God and loving others. Once we begin noticing others, we experience the secrets of Jesus’ love in action.

Jesus notices people, and that makes him irresistible. He notices needs. And he enters in. He notices empty stomachs and fills them. He notices sickness and heals it. He even notices a scoundrel in a tree and changes his life. Jesus’ love began with noticing. In Rick Lawrence’s breathtaking new book, The Jesus-Centered Life, he challenges our view of Jesus and offers 33 beeline practices that will bring us closer to Jesus’ heart.

How? Look for glistening eyes—and ask for that new baby picture. Then share in their joy. Listen for a voice of sadness. Wonder how you can offer empathy. Or prayer. Ask Jesus, “Who do you want me to notice today?” Then follow his lead and do it.

Smombies can’t notice when they’re glued to a screen. So notice others.



Do something with your smartphone or tablet that says you’re present. Put it down, make it disappear, shut it off.

Then do something physical with your body. Turn and face the person speaking to you. Remove distractions. Make eye contact when you’re speaking together.

Fellow smombies, it’s actually not that hard. A fresh perspective and a few new habits, and we’ll come back to life. For Jesus’ sake.

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Are You A “Smombie”?

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