A key focus of my blog is Technology. While technology has improved our lives, it has created several dangers as well both to the individual and to larger groups of people. The following contributed post discusses this and is entitled, Harmful Public: The Rise of Dangerous Trends.
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Humans are, for the most part, an intelligent bunch, and we mostly — with a stress on the mostly — use this intelligence for good. Still, every now and again, something comes along that makes you question this view. Sometimes, a trend will pop up that really has you scratching your head: why do people put themselves and others at risk for seemingly no gain? At other times, it’s not a trend, but a larger cultural shift that poses a danger.
With the rise of the internet, we’ve also seen a rise in these threats. It’s a combination of greater exposure (people are more aware of dangerous trends) and a greater emphasis on the self (people, fishing for likes, are willing to take more drastic measures to get them). Below, we take a look at some of the dangerous and sinister trends we’ve seen in recent years.
The Tide Pod Challenge
If you’re ever looking for a prime example of just how illogical humans can be, look no further than the tide pod challenge. If you didn’t know, tide pods are used for washing laundry — and that’s the only use anyone can have for them. Or so you’d think. Last year saw the rise of the insane “tide pod challenge,” which dared people — mostly teenagers — to eat them. As you might expect, many a teenager ended up temporarily poisoning themselves. So what caused this trend? How do you get otherwise sane people to eat something that’s made up entirely of chemicals? This one can be chalked up to trusting the word of strangers too much, and a desire to be internet famous. Do not attempt.
In the Skies
The popularity of laser pens seems to come and go. For a month or so, they’re everywhere, and then they disappear for a while. For the most part, these laser pens are harmless — they’re just used to distract the cat or whatever. But in recent years, there’s been an increase in a dangerous trend: the intentional pointing of laser beams at aircraft. Hugely dangerous, this has caused planes to be grounded, and is now a crime in many areas. Still, incidents of this nature continue, and has prompted the development of laser defense aviator glasses by Night Flight Concepts, Inc. It’s not just lasers that are causing chaos in the skies, either. The availability of drones may be good for some things, but it can be a disaster for airports. In the run-up to Christmas in 2018, all flights at London Heathrow Airport – one of the busiest airports in the world – were ground because someone decided to fly their drone in the area, causing thousands of people’s travel plans to be disturbed.
People have always been creepy, but if there’s one thing to be said for the creepy folk of the past, it’s that at least they kept it in the shadows. Today, creepy behavior is more likely to be seen in public — more likely, in fact, to be thrust upon the public. Take the thankfully brief trend of creepy clowns, who terrorized communities in 2016. People would get dressed up as clowns, and then stand menacingly on the streets, scaring children and many an adult. The positive side of this is that the vast majority (likely all) instances were not carried out with some higher crime in mind. They just wanted to freak people out, which they did. Indeed, most analysts eventually concluded that this was an example of hysteria. The actual number of clown sightings was next to zero, but thanks to media and internet reports, concern was much higher.
Take a visit to anywhere remotely interesting, and what you’ll find are certain people who are thoroughly engaged. Not with where they are, of course, but with themselves. If there’s one major shift that you can see out on the streets these days, it’s people taking selfies. For the most part, it’s all harmless, just a bit narcissistic. But there are times when it is dangerous. Since people are mostly taking the photographs for other people, rather than themselves (they’re to be shared on social media), they’re trying to find the most unique shot they can get — which sometimes involves putting themselves in danger. Nearly three hundred people have been killed taking selfies on top of buildings, near mountains, and out on the water, and there have been plenty of other close calls, too. The rise in risky photographers has led some people to call for ‘selfie-free zones.’
Vaccinations and Health
Humans have come a long way in the past century. We now have cleaner water, safer conditions, we’re better educated, and people are healthier. This should be celebrated, and, for the most part, it is. But there’s also a certain section of society who doesn’t see it this way — and they’re trying to undo the good work. They’re part of the anti-vaccination movement. They think that vaccinations, instead of helping to immunize children against deadly diseases, aren’t necessary at all. So they don’t get vaccinations for their children, who sometimes fall ill, and sometimes help spread diseases. Alas, their beliefs are all based on bad science — and it’s having a negative impact on the world. The cases of measles, for example, has risen by 50% in the past year.
Indeed, the anti-vax movement is just part of a broader trend of distrust. Fewer people than ever before have faith in the government, the media, and the corporations — the bodies that effectively run the world. Some of it is most definitely merited, but the distrust sometimes extends too far. Some people think that anything mainstream is to be rallied against.
Finally, let’s look at something that isn’t overly dangerous, per se, but does have a corrosive impact on people. Smartphone addiction. While it’s all good and well talking with friends during the day, it’s the other aspects of smartphones that are doing the damage. For example, while social media companies try to paint themselves as positive places where people connect with one another, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that sites like Instagram make people feel worse about themselves, and have also had a negative impact on body issues. Another less sinister but just as damaging aspect of smartphones is the impact it has on sleep. People who use their phones in the run-up to bedtime and sleep next to it get a poorer night’s sleep than those who keep their phones in another part of their home.
So what can we learn from all of this? There are a few things. The first is that everything, especially technology, can be dangerous when it’s in the wrong hands. People may have always wanted to, say, fly a drone over an airport, but just never had the option. Also, it does seem that the internet, for all the good it does, has given rise to a level of egotism that can be hard to keep up with. People are willing to do anything if it gives them a few likes on their social media channels. The final thing, something to keep in mind, is that people haven’t suddenly become more idiotic. In general, the opposite is true — today’s younger generation are smarter than their parents are. It’s just that you’re much more likely to hear about stupid things people have done. They happened just as often as in the past, but because the internet and 24 hours news weren’t around, you didn’t hear about them.