Ignoring Lessons from the Past



By Sherry Gouel

Looking back at previous generations, we’re certain to find things that make us wonder, “What were they thinking?” Of course, the world has changed in the past hundred years, and people have learned ways to improve their lives, their well-being, and their health. Many of these lessons were learned the hard way.

The Past

We learned was that nicotine was harmful to our health and sugar had many negative consequences. We learned these lessons because people suffered from their use.

If you look through any magazines or newspapers circa 1950, you’ll find ads for cigarettes. TV commercials used to show doctors trying to sell viewers on their favorite tobacco brands. Movies of that era included characters prominently puffing on cigarettes in every second scene.

Another less advertised but just as detrimental product was sugar. The advertising may have been more discreet, but the negative effects of sugar weren’t exposed and the sugar industry made sizable profits.

It would be years before society would be enlightened to the dangers of both these items. It would be years before cigarette ads would change from promoting them to informing the public of the dangers of their use. It would also be years before the link between high sugar intake and diabetes would be made public. Although it took many years to get these messages across, we eventually realized our errors and tried to correct them.

We may have come a long way, but that doesn’t mean we’re done learning. What about cell phones and social media—have we stopped to consider the potential consequences of using them? What will the next generation say about our love of this media? Human connections are falling behind our electronic connections, and the consequences won’t be as repairable as other mistakes humanity has made. Click To Tweet

The Present

Cell phone popularity soared around the late 1990s, and it would be hard to find anyone over the age of fourteen that doesn’t have a personal cell phone. Some of the harmful effects are not so obvious, but they are definitely present. We’ve now become a society that spends more time looking at our cell phones than at each other, but instead of trying to salvage our human connections, we find ways to accommodate our world to ease our connections with our cell phones.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are injured and some even die due to inattention while texting and walking. The World Health Organization calls this “distracted walking.” In Shaanxi, China, there’s a special lane reserved on the sidewalk for people who walk and text. It allows the people who are distracted as they walk and text to not impede the rest of society. They can simply stare down at their phones and not worry about walking into anyone. It’s a sad reality when we make accommodations to make texting instead of human connections easier.

One of the more troubling consequences of increasing attachment to our cell phones is that for many it has increased the feeling of detachment and isolation. For those who already feel lonely, seeing the world around them staring down at their phones creates more distance than connectivity.

The increase in our ties with technology has increased our isolation. This is particularly difficult for seniors, many who already feel isolated and alone. This demographic isn’t as accustomed to using their cell phones as often as the younger generation, and they prefer human connections, eye to eye.

In the UK, Costa Coffee shops has introduced a concept to help with loneliness. “Chatty Café,” which began in 2017, consists of allocating a table in their cafés for people who just wish to talk to someone. People are encouraged to stop and chat to anyone sitting at that table. This has been very popular, especially with seniors who welcome the warmth of a face-to-face conversation. But once again, we’re attending to the consequences of the problem rather than facing the actual root of it.

The Future

History has taught us some lessons that we have rectified, but our attachment to our cell phones will be a difficult crisis to overcome. We’re spending more time in front of our screens, and this inevitably will continue to have consequences. Human connections are falling behind our electronic connections, and the consequences won’t be as repairable as other mistakes humanity has made. Why? Because repairing our increasing human disconnection will mean putting our cell phones down. And that’s unlikely to happen.

Szeto TechnologiesSherry Gouel handles sales and marketing support for Szeto Technologies.