Human contact is now a luxury good?

A recent piece from Nellie Bowles in the NY Times suggests that screentime can now be considered a luxury.

Bowles suggests that screens originally were a status symbol of the elite. We now consider avoidance of them to be a feature of the wealthy.

The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen.

I agree that human contact is increasingly rare. You can see it when you walk down the street and actually look up at others. The rare instance when someone is looking back at you and gives you eye contact is a bit of a shock to the system.

Screens are everywhere. We see them on gas tanks, On billboards as we drive down the highway. We also walk through the world carrying a variety of screens on mobile devices, watches, and elsewhere.

Perhaps this should should be less about wealth or status. Perhaps we should consider educating individuals to think about what these connections are doing…or not doing to us. Perhaps there is also a need to consider the fact that these screens, devices, and spaces are a necessary component of our modern infrastructure, and we need to find more opportunities to develop balance.

The follow video from Prince Ea asks the question about whether or not we can refuse to let technology control us.

About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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