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.



One 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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