Did you know: smartphone-addicted Koreans are "spacing out" in a national contest


What's the world's most connected country? The answer might surprise some of you and seem wholly logical to others – it's South Korea, where 90% of the public owns a smartphone tethered to a lighting-fast LTE network. And while we're at it, it's not just phones – this is the place where Samsung and LG are laying the IoT foundations with connected fridges, ovens, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and who knows what else! In a land of such hyper-connectivity, it's not a stretch to assume that everybody is driven ever so slightly nuts by the over-stimulation from the endless stream of novelty, notifications, and new information.

Smartphone addiction is running rampant on a global scale, but living in the world's most connected country, it has to be the people of South Korea who need a break the most. That's why each year (since 2014), Seoul officials challenge the population to gather in a city park and spend the next hour and a half doing nothing but sit in the sun with their brains switched off. Not surprisingly, the initiative isn't exactly popular in a society that gets all jittery and itchy if it has to let go of its handsets for more than a minute.

Only 1500 out of Seoul's 10 million residents showed up this last Sunday, a warm day with temperatures averaging over 30C (86F). Some had to bring umbrellas and parasols to pull through, and in addition to braving the heat and boredom, they weren't allowed to look at watches or shuffle too much. In this quasi-meditative state, the one with the most stable heart rate – and therefore least stressed about their gadget-less situation – was deemed the winner.

After the escapade concluded, the judges elected local rapper Crush as the winner. The MC who penned hit singles "Don't Forget" and "Oasis" (both at around 9 million YouTube views) told reporters that he was "exhausted physically and mentally" while preparing his next release, so he came down to "relax for a while." Winning the contest must have made his experience all the more fortunate.

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Previously, we've reflected on the epidemic of smartphone addiction in articles such as the ones linked below. 'Nomophobia', or the feeling of separation anxiety from being left without a smartphone is a legitimate disorder that's being tackled with actual treatment programs in rehabilitation facilities. Another common symptom in handset owners is the so-called Phantom Vibrations Syndrome (PVS) – experiencing perceived vibrations from a device that's not really vibrating. Fun times!

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