Posted on 5/22/2013

Written by Cody Matera, Arizona State University Journalism Student

It’s a Glowface world. That’s the term my author father coined to describe people who always have their faces buried in a computer screen.

A decade ago, there was only a trace of the revealing blue glow as people embraced their desktop computers from a reasonable distance. As time passed and technology exploded, the devices became smaller, portable and infinitely more powerful. Desktops begat laptops, which in turn begat smart phones and spawned iPads. Screens shrunk and devices became handheld, beckoning the user closer. The transfixing glow of monitors grew brighter on every face.

glowfaceSuddenly, from one corner of the world to the other, glowfacing emerged. What first seemed like a harmless phenomenon is now changing the way we interact.

Instead of granting us greater freedom through their portability, these devices have rapidly restricted our lives. On any college campus you can find countless passersby with their eyes fixed on iPhones, reading the latest world news while ignoring the same world that’s all around them. Getting out of the house no longer guarantees socialization or a different perspective, as people can stay locked in their own issues and points of view no matter where they go or what company they keep. What was meant to enable greater communication has made us silent and unresponsive to the flesh-and-blood people around us.

The size of these smart phones and other devices also plays a part. The smaller screens incline users to think that using these computers is nonintrusive and barely noticeable. The ability to send text messages plays a huge part. Users feel that because text messages are silent and relatively unobtrusive, it’s a better way to communicate than face to face. These elements combined result in a society that spends a shocking amount of time fixed to a monitor in their palms, constantly underestimating the hours that technology consumes in their lives.

My best friend since childhood, a strapping 6-foot-6-inch giant we refer to as Wookie, shared my distaste for glowfacing. We vowed together that we’d never get sucked in. A third friend had succumbed to the plague during junior high. It wasn’t pretty. We constantly admonished him to cut it out during movies, games and exploratory walkabouts around our expansive Arizona neighborhood. We often joked that he’d be the bait if we ever encountered something dangerous, as he’d just keep walking forward with his face glued to his iPhone.

You can thus imagine my shock when, during a marathon viewing party of the popular TV series “The Walking Dead,” Wookie sat on the couch glowfacing for two hours. The gripping television program about a savage zombie apocalypse is Wookie’s favorite show, yet there he was face aglow.

The culprit? A bossy new girlfriend. 

“I can’t believe she chose to text bomb me at that precise time,” he lamented afterward. “What can I do?”

The Zombie Apocalypse portrayed in gory detail is actually an on-point allegory to the spread of glowfacing. If a zombie bites someone, he or she transforms into a mindless, stumbling husk of dead flesh that constantly craves human meat. Similarly, if someone caves into the social media tangle and is careless with an iPad or smart phone, one’s brain morphs into a mindless jumble of dead flesh illuminated by a soft blue glow that relentlessly eats into other people’s time.

To be fair, I’m no stranger to old-school desktop glowfacing. At 21, I’ve already spent an inordinate amount of my life staring at a screen. I’ve done everything from mentally battling clever trolls in various chat rooms to playing engrossing but time-wasting online video games. I’ve scoured the Internet searching for everything from movie trivia to music history. More recently, I’ve spent hours watching a worldwide broadcast of a hacked wrestling game that pits heroes and villains from classic video game series against each other.

I have to face it, I’m as hooked as any glowfacer on this thing called the Internet. Taking my father’s cue, however, I’m proud to say that I have not succumbed to glowfacing in public, to being ensnared 24/7 and blind to my surroundings, via those dreaded portable devices.

I never, ever will!

Unless, of course, I get a bossy girlfriend.

2013 headshot (1)Meet his professor, Francine

Self-described geek-to-human translator Francine Hardaway bought her first Apple product in the (very) early 80s. She started a weekly email list that evolved over the years, and is now known by people who still don’t read blogs as “Francine’s blog.” Francine’s real blog — for those “in the know”–is at Stealthmode Blog. She can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Plurk,, and every other social network someone tells her about. And, oh by the way, she is a serial entrepreneur who counsels and invests in other startup entrepreneurs at Stealthmode Partners. Francine teaches at Arizona State University in the Journalism Department.