Thursday, February 2, 2017

When Does it Become Too Much Screen Time?

Our we killing ourselves with too much screen time? (Pixabay)
Like many, I spend a good amount of my time sitting in front a computer. When I get a text, I look at my screen on my phone. To relax, I find myself sitting in front of a TV screen. When I want to go out and do something fun, it often involves going to the movies to sit in front of a bigger screen. Over the years I’ve been conditioned to constantly entertain myself with a screen. Of course, I’m not alone.

We don’t know how to just sit or stand and wait patiently without our phones. Go to any line of people and more than half of them will be checking their emails on their phones. People have literally given up their lives because texting while driving was more important than letting the other person on the other end wait a minute or two for a response.

People have gone from “watching TV” to “binge watching” as if catching everything out there is some sort of accomplishment. And even when we watch TV, we are often looking at our phones at the same time. Why? It’s as if we have forgotten how to enjoy an experience. The fact that we have to remind theater-goers to “silence their cell phone” while watching a movie is just sad.

Getting people’s attention is not difficult. It’s keeping their attention; that’s the hard part. As a writer, I’m often judged not by how many people ready my articles, but how long they stay on the website to read them. For some outlets, it doesn’t matter what I write about. It only matters how long people stay there before switching over to something else.

Our behavior is only fueling the problem even more. More “celebrities” are created every day in the world of YouTube where viewers watch other people watching other videos. Apparently, it is not enough for us to develop our own opinions about a movie trailer. We need to watch someone else watch that trailer and have them tell us what they thought of it.

The latest phenomena regarding screen viewing has come in the form of Facebook Live. It’s amazing to me how many people think that whatever they are doing should be shared with the world and now, their “fans” don’t have to wait. People are recording themselves doing really stupid things or just spouting off on the topics of the day - live. I’ve seen local TV stations using the tool. Why would I want to watch the news this way?

But the most disturbing thing I’ve run across in this golden age of technology was from an article I read today by syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. who wrote about a teenager who decided to commit suicide using the medium last weekend. Naika Venant from Miami, Florida, chose to hang herself in front of her 4,500 Facebook “friends.” But the death is not the worst of it. The worst news was that the Miami Herald reported about a thousand people watched for almost an hour while the girl prepared to die and then stuck around to watch further after the event. Some made fun of the girl posting their comments on the feed. Really? When did human life become so trivial? Are we ready to go back and start throwing Christians to the lions too in the name of entertainment?

It was reported that only one person called the police out of concern, but unfortunately gave them the wrong address. Mr. Pitts summed up the situation perfectly: “Yes, a thousand people watched her die. Then they clicked their browsers to see what else was on.”

I guess all that is left to say is, thank you for taking the time to watch this screen and read my post.