The great smartphone panic of 2018

Are you reading this on your smartphone? Then get over it.

Fear the smartphone?
(Image credit: iStock)

What's the appropriate social media response to the burgeoning panic about smartphones and social media? Maybe it's #FirstWorldProblems or perhaps #ThisIsWhyWeCantHaveNiceThings? I will admit a soft spot for a good GIF based on the classic Battlestar Galactica catchphrase, "All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again." Seems appropriate given how that TV show was about a technology backlash that keeps happening over and over again.

And so it is with concerns about the social consequences of media tech. The 17th-century French scholar Adrien Baillet fretted that "the multitude of books which grows every day in prodigious fashion" would destroy civilization just like the "fall of the Roman Empire." The early days of radio spawned fears that the "compelling excitement of the loudspeaker" would distract children from their homework. In 1961, FCC Chairman Newton Minow famously complained that television was a "vast wasteland," often little more than "a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons." (Of course to modern sensibilities, that all probably sounds pretty good. Especially a show called Blood and Thunder.) Just recently I wrote about spurious claims that Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare explain why young men don't work more.

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James Pethokoukis

James Pethokoukis is the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he runs the AEIdeas blog. He has also written for The New York Times, National Review, Commentary, The Weekly Standard, and other places.