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Technology: inspiring rudeness since 1906

Stuck with dinner companions glued to their smartphones? It's not a phenomenon unique to Generation Y.

(Credit: Punch)

Stuck with dinner companions glued to their smartphones? It's not a phenomenon unique to Generation Y.

The advent of the smartphone has given rise to a particularly vexing social behaviour. You know the one: someone who just can't help checking their Facebook feed while sitting in a restaurant, or texting their significant other every five minutes when you catch up for a drink.

There's also that one person in the waiting room or on the train who has to have a conversation at several decibels above the level their voice would normally be for a face-to-face communication. In short, mobile phones seem to encourage a lack of concern for other people within an immediate physical vicinity.

But it's a mistake to assume that any social problem is unique to any one generation, as this 1906 Punch cartoon by Lewis Baumer.

There's a great quote, often attributed to Socrates:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannise their teachers.

Its source is a 1953 book, Personality and Adjustment, by William L Patty and Louise S Johnson. Although we don't have any further confirmation of the quote's provenance, it does at least demonstrate that, about 60 years ago, complaints about "the youth of today" were in full force.

So maybe some things were all the same. One thing we can at least be very grateful about, though, is that Baumer's "wireless technology" is entirely fictional. Those antenna hats are horribly un-chic.