Assertion: Students are wired in and tuned out

11988285_1685098061723409_7313869991987245135_nTL;DR Summary

  • Viral photo on social media purports to show that today’s youth are so “wired” they just sit and use their smart phones in a famous art museum.
  • Viewers almost universally adopted that explanation.
  • In reality, the students were likely using the Museum’s provided multimedia app to learn about the artwork. Indeed, a news reporter eventually contacted the students’ teacher and confirmed this.

Read on to learn what the photographer who took this photo had to say …


The museum, like many museums, has an app that visitors are encouraged to download to their phone, iPod, etc, and use it to learn about items in the museum’s collection. The photographer did not verify the students were running the app but says that is indeed possible.

Viewers made their own interpretation, based on their own biases and preconceived ideas to fill in the gaps so the story fit their own narrative. Remember, this is how propaganda often works to create a story that seems plausible – our brain fills in the gaps to create a coherent, albeit potentially incorrect, scenario.

The original photo first appeared on Flickr together with the original photographer’s own comments – read them here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gijsvanderwal/15893868835

The news report from a reporter who contacted the teacher and confirmed the students were researching historical background.

Install the museum’s app and see for yourself – the app has extensive multimedia explanations of this (and other art works) in the museum.

Social influencers wrote online stories arguing that students are anti-social and focused on their smart phones – see http://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2015/04/kelman-brave-new-smartphone-world.aspx – even though we do not know this to be the case at all. At this point, the story takes on a life of its own – today’s students are so glued to their smart phones that they are tuned out of the real world!

If we apply Occam’s Razor – the simplest reasonable explanation is the students were using the museum’s multimedia app on their devices, as intended.

Like the prior post about the dog digging a hole at the tomb of the deceased owner, we need to stop and ask “Is another explanation possible?

The photo, above, was shared into my FB news feed with literally dozens of comments criticizing “today’s kids” for being so out of touch. Those who tried to introduce facts – or commonsense explanations about the museum’s app – were shunted aside. At that point, “group think” took hold and created its own world view of truth.

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