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Screen time

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

How much screen time have your racked up today? Including work time. Now subtract the work time. Research shows the average American spends over 7 hours every day staring at a screen connected to the internet. This number has increased by 50 minutes per day since 2013. Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Your excuse is you work in front of a screen. You howl “I HAVE to spend that much time looking at a computer. I work in an office”. No dice.That 7 hours is split almost exactly 50/50 between computers and handheld devices. Chances that you’re doing that much actual productive work from your phone or tablet is low. All of us have become fractionally (at minimum) addicted to our phones. Yes, we use them for communication and being social, but sadly it’s gone far beyond that.

According to the average cell phone user checks their phone 47 times a day beginning as soon as immediately upon waking. 85% of smartphone users report checking their phone while in conversation with friends and family. And the term for feeling dread or extreme fear of being away from your cell phone is called “nomophobia”.

How have phones affected our lives in recent years? Text message has become the go-to form of communication for many people. And I’ll be the first to admit that I definitely subscribe to the mindset of “Before you call me be sure that what you have to say cannot be said with a text.” Guilty. Now, that said, if what you have to say CANNOT be communicated via text or as in many cases SHOULD NOT be communicated via text, by all means, call me. And I think this is where we get into trouble. Many conversations are simply not text conversations. Fewer and fewer people are capable of discerning what is appropriate for text and what is not. Text lacks nuance and nonverbals and so any conversation beyond the simplest who, where, when messages can be murky and someone can take things the wrong way. Also there is the fact that some people have expectations of quick response times because they KNOW you are close to your phone. This is killing our communication skills. 89% of Americans took out a phone in their last conversation with someone and 82% said it hurt the conversation they were actually having.

There was a thought before the age of cell phones that if everyone just had access to more information we could solve a lot of problems socially and even politically. Well, we now carry all human knowledge in our pockets and as far as I can tell we’re more divided than ever. So, it’s not that phones don’t have anything positive to contribute, it’s that humans are poor users of the tool. Maybe humans have been programmed to be poor users of the tool? Watch someone endlessly scroll and more times than not you're seeing in real time someone dumb themselves down with attention span shortening digital litter. What are the chances they’re reading a Kindle book that fast? In addition to the decreases in time and quality of our face to face social interactions, phones increase our stress and anxiety. They disrupt our sleep patterns. They increase our exposure to violent and distressing content. They increase our exposure to political propaganda which in turn decreases our social cohesiveness further fracturing society. By design? That's up to you.

Now, I’m not a Luddite by any stretch. Technology has pulled millions out of abject poverty and kept an uncountable number of people from starving or suffering other early ends. We just have to be mindful of how we are using them and how they are affecting us. This goes for television too. Put them down OFTEN. Leave them home or at minimum in your car. Get outside. Have face to face conversations. Or just sit there being quiet and do nothing at all. I promise once you get over the initial anxiety it’s well worth it.

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