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  • This quote isn't talking about smartphones,

  • or even TV or computer games.

  • Answer?

  • It's actually from 1936 and it's talking about the radio.

  • And how about this?

  • OK, so this quote is talking about phone addiction,

  • but the phones in question are landlines. Remember them?

  • Well there was a time when people worried about

  • how addictive they were.

  • We see today concern over social media,

  • before it was the internet, then we had video nasties,

  • television, radio, cinema

  • Meet Kirsten Drotner, Professor of Media Studies

  • at the University of Southern Denmark...

  • How many did I get to?

  • ...who's been writing about this topic for over 20 years.

  • The name I coined for it is a “media panic”.

  • Whenever a new medium arrives on the social scene

  • and is taken up in a big way,

  • then we see these very, very stark emotional reactions.

  • According to Kirsten, when you look through history

  • one can see the same pattern of concern repeating itself -

  • often even using the same language and metaphors.

  • So today there's lots of talk of social media addiction,

  • comparing it to drugs.

  • But it's easy to forget that Pac-Man, Pinball and television

  • were described in the same way.

  • Or reports talk of the addictivedark sideof social media,

  • echoing the way that computer games were described.

  • Or, another example, social media is compared to opiates -

  • the same language that was used to describe television and Nintendo.

  • And the drugs metaphor goes further back.

  • What do you think was described as themarijuana of the nursery

  • because they were so addictive?

  • The answer?

  • Comic books

  • which, by the middle of the 20th Century,

  • had got people so worried about their addictiveness

  • that there were bestsellers about the harm they were doing young people,

  • official inquiries,

  • even public burnings.

  • OK, last quote...

  • As destructive as cocaine?

  • That would be the novel.

  • Novels were silly, novels were enervating,

  • novels were the worst form of mental food,

  • novels were narcotic, novels were addictive.

  • This is Ankhi Mukherjee from the University of Oxford

  • and she's talking about a time when lots of people were genuinely worried

  • about people reading.

  • You had reviewers of children's literature writing in journals saying

  • this is terrible for children -

  • it's terrible for children to be given books.

  • It was feared they would become addicted.

  • And this is Frank Furedi,

  • who has written extensively about this phenomenon.

  • And pretty much in the same way that we see the social media today

  • being responsible for uncivil behaviour and for a variety of sins,

  • so too in the 18th Century

  • the novel was the target of that kind of criticism.

  • You can find novels described as evil, as a vice,

  • and blamed for violence.

  • And yet today, if anything, people are worried that young people

  • are not reading enough novels.

  • Whether it's radio, telephones, comic books or novels,

  • we see a similar pattern.

  • There's a kind of historical amnesia -

  • that media, for example, that 20 years ago

  • were really, really the object of concern,

  • then all of a sudden we don't hear very much about it.

  • I think something that's helpful for thinking about media panics

  • is the Gartner Hype Cycle, developed by a US company

  • and used to describe the way technologies are adopted by society.

  • According to this theory, a new technology

  • often has a moment of enthusiasm and high expectations,

  • when it seems like it might be the solution to everything.

  • It's being calledThe Twitter Revolution”.

  • This is then followed by a crash - a period of disillusionment

  • and scepticism, before both hype and fear level off

  • and everyone basically calms down.

  • But with media panics,

  • while the concerns about each particular media might fade,

  • the overall state of anxiety continues

  • as something new fills the gap.

  • So why do media panics keep occurring?

  • One straightforward explanation for media panics

  • is that adults have a natural parental concern for the young,

  • not remembering - because they were children at the time -

  • that the generation before had similar worries about them.

  • Another possible explanation is something called

  • thethird person effect

  • which describes a tendency to believe

  • that other people will be more affected

  • by a media message than you are.

  • This is how we can have no problem reconciling our own pretty benign

  • experiences with a media technology with a belief that it will cause

  • much greater harm to others.

  • There's a very negative impoverished view of what human beings are

  • in a lot of the discussion on the media.

  • They are really, really too stupid,

  • they're uneducated, they cannot deal with the complexities

  • of everyday life, and therefore they become pretty much the prisoners

  • of the media.

  • A final theory is to do with something social scientists call

  • cultural capital”.

  • The idea is that along with economic capital and social capital,

  • one thing that establishes your position in society

  • is your knowledge about culture.

  • And this is especially true for those most often most concerned

  • about new media.

  • To middle class people who can't fall back on landed property,

  • they invest a lot in themselves in order to get on in society.

  • They invest a lot in education,

  • in operating according to the right cultural norms.

  • But when new types of media come along

  • it threatens their investment in these old forms of cultural capital,

  • so no wonder they react nervously.

  • It's also a precarious investment

  • because they live in a dynamic society,

  • and modern society - through the 18th Century and on -

  • is based on change.

  • "Meantime some big investors now are calling on Apple to help fight

  • what it considers an addiction to the iPhone..."

  • Currently there's a debate going on about smartphones and social media

  • with some scientists arguing there's evidence for harm,

  • while many others are unconvinced.

  • But while it makes sense to be cautious,

  • knowing the history of media panics should help give us some perspective.

  • I'm also a parent and I'm also a grandparent and I'm also concerned,

  • and I think it's fine to be concerned,

  • because it's a kind of indication that you take responsibility.

  • But I think there's a difference between being concerned

  • and panicking, because if you panic, you can't think.

  • We don't know what effect

  • social media and smartphones will have long-term on our society,

  • but what we do know is that, as long as we keep inventing

  • new forms of media,

  • the cycle of panic is likely to continue.

This quote isn't talking about smartphones,

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B1 social addictive society concern smartphones capital

A brief history of media panics | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2020/09/01
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