America has long been known as the land of fads and crazes; those behavior oddities or interests that are latched onto by significant numbers of individuals, only to eventually fade away.
Throughout history, they’ve included numerous dances, clothing and hair styles, speech patterns and even nondescript hobbies like collecting pet rocks in the 1970s. Their one commonality has been that they all disappear once the novelty wears off.
Which brings us to the latest fad or craze sweeping the land; known simply as “Pokémon Go.” Recently developed by Niantic and published by the Pokémon Co., it is described as a “free-to-play location-based augmented reality and alternate reality mobile game” for use on iPhones and Android devices. The game’s purpose: “To capture, battle, and train virtual creatures (monsters)” called Pokémon. Although imaginary, they appear on device screens as though they are real. Players then physically move about to hunt these monsters, earning points and attaining increased levels of expertise.
Yet despite benefiting businesses because of the nearby presence of PokéStops or being designated as such sites themselves with millennials, “Pokémon Go” has generated criticism and raised red flags. Increasingly, players have demonstrated poor judgment and inattentiveness while playing the game. Driving while being an active participant. Disrespectfully entering cemeteries and memorial sites. And ignoring warnings and prohibitions in disregard to their own safety.
Need some examples? Two men playing the game in California climbed through a fence, only to plunge to their deaths from a cliff.
In Toledo, a man and woman were charged with criminal trespassing after illegally entering the zoo at 2:30 a.m. They were later arrested near the tiger exhibit. Interestingly, just days before the incident, the woman Facebook-posted that she was not “above breaking and entering for a Pokémon.”
After admitting to the irresponsibility of her act, she added that she was just “on the hunt for monsters.” Meanwhile, electricity providers have begun warning of the increased potential for death or serious injury to those who trespass at power stations or associated electrical sites to play the game. But its unseen side affects don’t stop there.
Some players are even posting nude photos of themselves, superimposing Pokémon images over suggestive places, or while engaging in sexual activity. This would seem to create problematic scenarios for those families looking for wholesome fun. Then again, is anything sacred?
“Pokémon Go” is not limited to large urban areas either. It’s right here in Lima and quite easy to spot. I know because I recently came upon no less than six players actively participating in it at the Allen County Children’s Garden.
While most who visit this local gem go to relax and admire the variety of vibrant colors spread across a magical landscape; on this particular day there was no shortage of Pokémon geeks craning their necks to view a hand-held electronic screen in search of imaginary creatures.
I stopped to think that on a perfectly gorgeous day, these mush-brains were perfectly content to miss the beauty of nature laid out for them in favor of an electronic-based alternate reality game. Reportedly, the public library, Wal-Mart and at least one house of worship are participating in the lunacy too. This is what passes as America’s latest craze, but it comes with a cost.
Even before the onset of “Pokémon Go,” millions of people incessantly stared at their smartphones every day to send/receive text messages. Add those individuals to the numbers now dedicated to capturing pretend monsters and what do you get? Sufferers of “text neck,” a medical condition incurred by those who bend their necks to such a degree that this poor posture leads to early wear-and-tear on the spine, and to degeneration requiring potential surgery.
Spinal surgeon Kenneth Hansraj calls it an epidemic, and compares the condition to that achieved by carrying an 8-year-old on your shoulders several hours per day. Who would voluntarily engage in such risk when bending one’s neck in such a fashion translates to 700-1,400 hours per year of spinal stress?
And it’s especially worrisome for young people; which leaves just one question. Is “text neck” covered by Obamacare?
Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. Reach him a [email protected]