Will This Be the Year of More Return to Our Technological Past?

Back to the future… or blast to the past?

paper map

Tryfonov/AdobeStock

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

A curious thing is happening in 2023 during this first month of January. We are going backwards, at least in terms of some technology. Given that I am clearly “old school” in that regard, I feel some curious satisfaction.

Yesterday morning, the Wall Street Journal had an article titled “Forget Google Maps: Why Paper Map Sales Are Booming.”1 That is welcome news to me as my wife and I prepare for our winter road trip down south. Despite our finally using technology to guide our way, I still start with a review of relevant paper maps and bring them just in case technology fails. Besides, I had long used paper maps as my outsider art canvases to depict our trips in collages as well as the growth of our grandchildren. However, maps and the ability to encapsulate them, like glass over paintings, was getting harder and harder to find.

A couple of days before I had read about the return of the “vintage” flip phone, even spearheaded by Tik Tokers and other youth. One reason given is the depression and other mental problems ensuing from the anthropomorphized smart phones. Flip phones are the withdrawal medication.

In another Wall Street Journal article yesterday, the focus was on “Tech Nostalgia: Blackberrys, Dictaphones and 11 More Things We Miss in 2023.”2 One of them are VHS tapes. I still have them and a way to play them. Longplaying records did not need to be mentioned as they have already made a growing comeback.

Does this trend apply to clinical psychiatry? Perhaps it does. As we have become enamored with the convenience of telepsychiatry and Zoom sessions during the pandemic, which do have unique advantages, something old school may be lost in the process: live face to face sessions, where the connection is different and nonverbal communication more apparent.

There is a popular idiomatic expression of “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Sometimes we ask our patients to interpret such sayings to test their abstracting abilities. Generally, it means the person should avoid discarding something valuable to them as they discard something unwanted. In our rush to social media and artificial intelligence, we seem to be throwing out some of our mental health and some of what makes us human.

We, uniquely in the United States, are throwing away human lives. We have had 3 mass shootings in California in 3 days. The first we covered in our column yesterday and another has some similarity. No clear motives yet.

The common weapon? Guns and rifles. Whether they are high tech or not, we in America are unique in their continuing availability and use for harm. Has the ancillary power of technology, whether social media or firearms, been cheapening human life?

As the use of social media has risen, so have mass shootings. Coincidence, or not?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

References

1. Morgan K. Forget Google Maps: why paper map sales are booming. The Wall Street Journal. January 19, 2023. Accessed January 24, 2023. https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-paper-map-sales-are-booming-11674164824

2. The Editors of Off Duty. Tech nostalgia: BlackBerrys, dictaphones and 11 more things we miss in 2023. The Wall Street Journal. January 21, 2023. Accessed January 24, 2023. https://www.wsj.com/articles/tech-nostalgia-blackberrys-dictaphones-and-11-more-things-we-miss-in-2023-11674277203

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