Blaming technology for human problems

There’s some­thing I find real­ly objec­tion­able about this adver­tis­ing cam­paign that’s doing the rounds at the moment. “The more you con­nect, the less you con­nect”, made by Ogilvy Bei­jing, shows a giant phone screen phys­i­cal­ly com­ing between fam­i­ly mem­bers:

A mother physically separated from her child by a giant smartphone

Far from find­ing it “bru­tal­ly hon­est”, I find it dimwit­ted­ly dis­hon­est. It sug­gests a notion that before mobile phones we lived in an age where we always gave undi­vid­ed atten­tion to the peo­ple around us. This is a myth. It’s false in the extreme.

Does a phone take your atten­tion away from the imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment? Cer­tain­ly. As does tele­vi­sion, or a book; you could eas­i­ly change this cam­paign to sub­sti­tute a book for a phone and it would be equal­ly true. Rus­sell Davies arti­cle Unbooked: How to live mind­ful­ly in a lit­er­ate world skew­ers this con­cept bril­liant­ly:

There’s increas­ing evi­dence that books actu­al­ly change the shape of the brain and they’re lit­er­al­ly addic­tive. Not addic­tive in the sense of the actu­al mean­ing of the word, but addic­tive in the sense of what peo­ple mean when they say ‘addic­tive’ – which is worse.

Blam­ing tech­nol­o­gy for human prob­lems is at least as old as the writ­ten word, and it is annoy­ing to see the idea prop­a­gat­ed so unques­tion­ing­ly.



1 reply on “Blaming technology for human problems”

You have a point Peter, but what about the inter­rup­tive nature of those tech­no­log­i­cal dis­trac­tions? Does­n’t it feel like hav­ing a very per­sis­tent con­stant dis­trac­tion in your pock­et? Isn’t the net­work effect of those social media appli­ca­tions cre­at­ing a “I don’t want to miss” ver­sus a “I want to do” men­tal­i­ty? Do books have met­rics like User engage­ment or Cohort Analy­sis in order to make sure that you return to them, no mat­ter what you are leav­ing behind?

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