I know that I am not alone in being concerned about the impact of so-called social media on the way we interact with each other. However, it seems that it’s a concern that’s been around longer than we might have thought.
The other day I was sorting through a pile of old books that had been donated to the Op Shop and came across a book called “Inns and Outs”. It was written by Gwen Meredith an Australian writer and her husband Ainsworth Harrison about their travels in Britain and Europe. This is just the sort of travel book I enjoy so I bought it and took it home to read.
The year was 1953, Coronation year in Britain and television sets were just starting to become a feature in homes. We didn’t get television in Australia until 1959 so the writers felt it worthwhile to comment on it.Gwen Meredith was at that time writing a popular radio serial called “Blue Hills” which older Australians may remember. While she was interested and impressed with the some of the programs she saw being made at the television studios she visited she commented that not all television programs were good but that some viewers did not seem very discriminating. I’ll quote from the book.
We have seen television that was excellent. We have seen a good deal , however, that was simply not worth watching. And non-addicts suffer from the latter considerably, for a great many people, once they buy a television set, seem to lose their critical ability and watch everything from opening to closing down. If you are visiting them you haven’t much option but to watch too. An acquaintance complained bitterly about this when we asked her when she had last seen mutual friends, “I’ve given up going to see them altogether,” she replied. “I’m not going to trek all the way across London just to watch television. Why, the last time I went, not only did we not have two words of conversation, but they couldn’t even drag themselves away from the set to make me a cup of tea before I had to leave for the bus.”"Inns and Outs" by Gwen Meredith and Ainsworth Harrison , Angus and Robertson 1955
This of course would have been a cardinal sin in fifties Britain.
So it seems that not much has changed in 60 odd years. Some people are still just as mesmerised by television good or bad as when it was new and we’ve invented even more technologies we can use to ignore each other.