The recent photo of the Old Orchard Beach High School lunch room is one of those poignant cultural images that lingers (“Is a half-hour lunch break best for Maine students?” March 24). Here’s what I saw: four students, heads down, no eye contact, no laughter, no interaction of any measure. Four students, each consumed by their phones.

What’s happening in this picture? It’s impossible to know what content is being consumed, but it’s clear what commands their attention.

At some point, we as a society will need to confront what’s happened over the last decade when it comes to our psychologies and our ability to concentrate. Viewing the world as potential content, FOMO, online bullying, misinformation and myriad other modern-day mental health threats all stem from the machines held in the hands of those four students. Are phones and social media modern-day necessities and conveniences, or are they something much more pernicious?

To put it bluntly: In 20 years’ time, will we look back at this photo and feel the same shock that we’d feel today if presented with a photo of four boys sitting around the lunch table, each with a lit cigarette in hand?

Nathaniel Krenkel

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