Since the smartphone boom put tiny computers in hundreds of millions of pockets, there've been countless critics eager to point out that invasive technology is changing our lives for the worse, and worse, changing who we are. It's turning us into selfish, anti-social automatons, they say, again and again and again.
But how much has really changed?
Here's a group of fine young lads hanging out in Chicago in 1907, enjoying the paper. Look familiar?
Looks an awful lot like these college students killing time, right?
1907 Chicagoans again:
And now 2011:
And here's some NYC subway riders in 2007:
Our desire to ignore others and consume our media is especially noticeable now on public transit...
...then again, looks like it's always been that way...
And while there's no doubt the world is changing...
...our behavior remains very much the same.
Need more proof? The webcomic xkcd collected a whole host of quotes from the past 150 years that show how we've always been afraid of change. Here's one:
The art of conversation is almost a lost one. People talk as they ride bicycles — at a rush — without pausing to consider their surroundings...wWhat has been generally understood as cultured society is rapidly deteriorating into basebsss and voluntary ignorance. The profession of letters is so little understood, and so far from being seriously appreciated, that...Newspapers are full, not of thoughtful honestly expressed public opinion on the affairs of the nation, but of vapid personalities interesting to none save gossips and busy bodies.
-Marie Corelli, Free Opinions, Freely Expressed, 1905.
So if you think we're terrible now, it's probably only because you didn't realize we were terrible before.
Big h/t to this Reddit thread.
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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