Pokémon and Public Shaming

I missed out on the Pokémon craze the first time around, because I’m old. So I don’t have any nostalgic attachment to it, and while I have Pokémon Go on my phone, I don’t play it beyond occasional thumb-twiddling moments; it makes me too closely identify with Stephen Collins’s cartoon.

Cartoon about playing Pokémon Go as an adult
Stephen Collins, published by The Guardian

But generally, I don’t get agitated about people playing it. It’s pretty fun, it’s interesting, I don’t see it as any worse than many other entertainment pastimes. I definitely don’t see it as enslaving brain-dead humanity.

Phone-obsessed man being ridden like a horse by Pikachu
‘ABVH’, based on a cartoon by Pawel Kuczynski

I really can’t abide this vision. Apart from being essentially misanthropic, it’s ignorant of history, and part of a repeating pattern of public shaming and moral panics over new technology. This includes the umbrella; early users were “hooted and jeered at”, and called “mincing Frenchmen”.

We need to put aside this idea that new technology makes us dumber, more self-obsessed, or isolated. As Randall Munroe’s XKCD put it: “It’s been two centuries. Take a hint.”

Cartoon: bemoaning new technology through the ages
Randall Munroe, XKCD

Also published on Medium.