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'Phubber' Lane Divides Netizens

One city's tongue-in-cheek solution to smartphone addiction has caused a stir online

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Jun.11

Authorities in Xi’an, China's ancient capital, have created a unique walkway as a tongue-in-cheek solution for a modern problem – smartphone addiction. The 1-meter-wide, 100-meter-long track which leads to a shopping mall is painted in red, blue and green, with pictures of mobile phones and the words “special lane for phubbers” in Chinese. And it's caused a stir online.  

The word “phubber” was coined by the Macquarie Dictionary in 2012 to describe people who stare at their phones and ignore everything else around them. The behavior can, of course, be dangerous around traffic.   

Because of the dangers of phubbing, a special lane for phone addicts is a clever way to raise awareness of the problem and warn pedestrians to pay attention to their safety, say some. It could convince the Chinese government to consider the significance of the phubbing problem and focus on how to deal with phubbers, the Hebei-based news portal www.yzwb.com.cn editorializes.

But critics question its effectiveness, saying those who stare at their phones while walking may not notice the pathway. One Sichuan news site argues few phubbers will use the lane and it will have no practical value. It could also mislead others, and see many take phubbing for granted.

The Guangming Daily argues phubbing is a hard habit to change. Both reliable public infrastructure and personal discipline are needed. And pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings.