Addicted to the Screen

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A rant about our time looking at screens.

I just had to rant about this.  I won’t be offended if you don’t read it.

We have reached that point in our lives where we spend more time looking at a video screen during our waking hours than any other activity.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article based on research data from eMarketer, we spend on average of 5 hours and 16 minutes in front of a PC, tablet or smartphone screen and 4 hours and 31 minutes watching TV.  That’s a whopping 9 hours and 47 minutes a day staring into an LCD or other screen.  That’s scary.  That just didn’t just happen, we made it happen.  No wonder the Internet and TV have so much influence over our lives.

Screen addiction is so common.  You see it every day.  Everyone in an office is looking at a PC or laptop screen.  People are standing still in the aisles at airports, conferences, and grocery stores just staring into a smartphone. Couch potatoes are oblivious to those around them as they nurse their tablets. Teens obsess over their social networking sites. Kids are mesmerized as they play their video games. Others are reading on e-readers. And everyone else is watching insipid or violent TV shows. Why do we do this? Mainly because our jobs require it. Or we do it to keep in touch or to relax and be entertained. Is this what life has become?

I have examined my own behavior and found it to be somewhat in line with this trend. As writer/editor I do spend most of my work day on a PC with Word, Internet access and email. I do use a smartphone to talk and text but rarely longer than a few minutes. I do watch some TV, mainly news and movies and not the 4+ hours indicated earlier. I read more. And I don’t have a tablet. 

The turning point for most people is the acquisition of a tablet. If you weren’t screen-obsessive before, you will be as the tablet sucks you in. The smartphone screen is just too small for many things. And a laptop is too big and heavy. A tablet is just right. And the screen is even large enough for TV and movies. Once you get the tablet you don’t go back. You are hooked. I have seen this happen again and again with friends and relatives.  Call it tablet fever. Whatever it is, it is becoming a chronic and debilitating behavior.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It is certainly a good thing for the electronics industry and the economy in general. It is a bad thing because perhaps we have lost some ability to communicate person-to-person. Yes, we are communicating but at a once-removed distance. But we can access information fast and easy in a society that is perpetually in information overload. And Internet access can be educational in several ways. As for TV, it is a great entertainment medium and news source for sure. Otherwise, TV just keeps us from having to think on our own. It tells us how and what to think, what to buy, how to vote and portrays “standards” and events that just aren’t real. 

Nothing is going to change all of this. It is what it is. Just be aware it’s happening and control it as you need to.  Most of all, don’t stop thinking for yourself and don’t forget the lost concept of common sense.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

HK
on Oct 30, 2013

I love books. Love science and games on the internet. Love movies. I also love working and crafting with my mind and hands, car repair and woodworking, digging and mowing and chain sawing (… many other skills … ) and coach and scout master. The file sharpening an axe is a more cherished tool than a modern bus-decoding oscilloscope or a wiki if only because of the sensorial and cognitive immersion, if not the relative rarity of opportunities to use one.

The cheap, easy pleasure and isolation of video, books and computers is tempting to all, but ever so much and more so to those for whom the real world contact is more problematic (cf., ASD) … or less familiar. The difference between playing/watching it and living/doing it is the difference between corn syrup and fruit.

on Oct 30, 2013

I'm reminded of the 1971 book "Be Here Now" by Alan Watts ... and dismayed by the number of people, mostly young, who intentionally isolate themselves, even among friends, by escaping into the tiny screen.

on Oct 31, 2013

Everything is promoted to be an addiction, -fast and easy-. The common sense is becoming "keep connected".
Young people deserves a better living and needs experimentation. Virtual world and simulation just are cheap replacements of what really matters: Learning.

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Lou Frenzel

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications...
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