Without even knowing you, I know you spend too much time in front of a screen, so let's fix that. First, definitions and quotations. Then we'll tackle your screen addictions and why you nee to stop it, and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
So, today we're talking about screen time. It's a problem mostly because, as stupid humans, we tend to grab onto things that are easy and, ironically, really bad for us physically, mentally, or both. I mean, it's what we do best. Destroy the planet and ourselves at the same time while thinking we're doing some really awesome shit. Well, we're not, and it's hurting us, so let's take a look at why that is.
First, let's take a look at a definition. The modern, post-mobile device use of the term screen time is defined as "time spent using a device such as a computer, television, or games console." I'm going to focus more on the computer and mobile device use because that's where we, as a short-sighted species, are getting into most of the problems. I mean, you're not looking at your 72-inch friggin' television 100 times a day, but your iPhone sees more daylight than your goddamn dog, just sayin'. Now, some quotations.
Our first quotation is from Julius Henry Marx, known better as Groucho Marx, who was an American comedian, actor, writer, stage, film, radio, television star and vaudeville performer. In addition to his years on Vaudeville stages, he made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo, and his legacy remains strong even today. He said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Now I know I'm talking about computers in this episode, but in this case, a screen is a screen.
Our next quotation is from Michael Royko Jr., an American newspaper columnist from Chicago who, over his 30-year career, he wrote over 7,500 daily columns for the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He's quoted as saying "It's been my policy to view the Internet not as an 'information highway', but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies." This may seem ridiculous, but really, have you actually evaluated the veracity of the info you're taking in? I mean seriously? Because, spoiler alert, he's kind of spot on with this one.
Finally we have Max Frisch who was a Swiss playwright and novelist. Frisch's works focused on problems of identity, individuality, responsibility, morality, and political commitment. Frisch garnered numerous awards throughout his career for both film and theatre and his strong socialist and apolitical leanings influenced Swiss politics for decades. At the dawn of public computer use in the 60s, he was quoted as saying, "Technology: the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it." This hits directly to the heart of what I'm talking about today, that your screens are not your life. Well, for most of us, or they shouldn't be. Let's take a look, follow me.
So what's so bad about screens? Well, they aren't how we evolved to experience the world and, to that end, they create an artificial reality that causes other psychological issues. Small amounts of screen time were never a problem, but the growing use of mobile devices, computers, and the explosion of new programming available on television have set new high levels of screen viewing for most people. Even worse, since the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed digital platforms as the only means for people to maintain socio-emotional connections, the last two years or more have manifested even greater amounts of screen time on most of us. In to an article in Frontiers in Human Dynamics titled "Social Connectedness, Excessive Screen Time During COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Review of Current Evidence", it was reported that "increased screen time replaces healthy behaviours and habits like physical activity and sleep routine, and leads to potentially harmful effects such as reduced sleep or day-night reversal, headaches, neck pain, myopia, digital eye syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance due to increase in sedentary time among adults." So, yeah, your screen time is hurting you, maybe even killing you. But, like always, it gets worse.
Again, primarily with mobile devices, but also with computers, there is a new phenomenon that is generally referred to as "doomscrolling." Doomscrolling or doomsurfing is the act of spending an excessive amount of screen time devoted to the absorption of negative news. Increased consumption of predominantly negative news may result in harmful psychophysiological responses in some cases. In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America titled "Cross-national evidence of a negativity bias in psychophysiological reactions to news", they determined that "Reactions to video news content reveal a mean tendency for humans to be more aroused by, and attentive to, negative news." They conclude that "Insofar as our results make clear the pervasiveness of negativity biases on average, they help account for the tendency for audience-seeking news around the world to be predominantly negative." Why is this bad? Well, in another article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal titled "Protecting the brain against bad news" they found that "when a person engages in doomscrolling, the brain may feel under threat and shut off its "bad news filter" in response." They then found a connection between consumption of bad news with higher levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and even symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So, the more you watch, the more you feel bad and the more you want to watch, and the badder you feel. Dizzy yet?
And there is also evidence that this negatively affects youth as well. In an article titled "Effects of screentime on the health and well-being of children and adolescents: a systematic review of reviews" published in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Open, they concluded that "There is evidence that higher levels of screentime is associated with a variety of health harms for children and young people, with evidence strongest for obesity, unhealthy diet, depressive symptoms and quality of life." So age doesn't matter, high levels of screen time can cause physical and mental harm to all of us. So is all hope lost. Well of course not, but it means you're going to have to take the wheel and get serious. Let me give you a few suggestions, pay attention.
The first thing you need to do is keep track of your screen time and set some limits. If you don't actually take steps to know how much you're using screens, the whole exercise is pointless. And you have to know you're addicted or you wouldn't be still listening. But there's actual data out there. For instance, just know that back in 2016, a The Nielsen Company report found that we spend more than 10 hours a day on screen time. Don't sound so surprised. On top of that, in a broad research study done by a company called RescueTime that specializes in tools to control your screen time, they found that we spend three hours and 15 minutes on our phones daily, and we pick up our phones 58 times per day. Find out what your numbers are, and decrease them. Start small, with the goal of cutting them in half over time. Yes, half, and I'm only saying that because I care. Well, I don't really, but you should.
Secondly, keep phones out of your bedroom. Completely. Know that all screens that are back-lit create light that interferes with your sleep producing hormones like melatonin, and could lead to less restful sleep. And if you use your phone as an alarm, don't. Get a cheap clock radio, and leave your phone on the charger in another room. Don't let it be the first thing you see when you wake up, that's seriously unhealthy. And you may think it's just an alarm, but then you spend the next 20 minutes scrolling through social and reading your stupid email. Don't start your day off like this. And if you can't help yourself, you're addicted, and you need to find a way to break that. That's another episode.
Also, there is evidence that apart from your bedroom, it's a healthy practice to create screen-free zones in your house. In my opinion, the bathroom is a fantastic place to start. If you bring your phone into the bathroom and use it, you have a problem that could also be affecting your health. Do not expose your phone to whatever is living in your bathroom because, once your done and you're back at your desk, your stupid device will be in your hands again, along with every single microbe from your filthy bathroom. But don't stop there, include your dining room just to create more limits, because, clearly, you need to set up some limits. Yeah, I see you.
Finally, think about trying some new hobbies, and fill your new free time with something productive. Learn a language (not on your device) or learn to play an instrument. Take up drawing or painting, go bird watching. Literally anything other than scrolling through social media and binge-watching shows, things that will never make you more interesting or knowledgeable about anything. Take back your life and do something that does not include a screen. Once you form those new habits, you'll wonder why you ever spent all that time staring at screens with your brain switched off.
Okay, so that’s it for this episode. As always, I’ll leave you with a Disgruntled nugget in a second, but first I want to thank you for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, I’m on all the major platforms, and please visit www.disgruntledlifecoach.ca for all my podcasts – working on the w-w-w, please still use it until further notice. Please also follow me on twitter @lifedisgruntled, there’s a link on my website – DM me if you want some stickers. Have you heard about my stickers? They're free. Also, if you like what you’ve heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that?
The great writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau once said "Lo! Men have become the tools of their tools." Then, technology pioneer Jeff Pesis updated that tool maxim by defining computer hardware as "The parts of a computer system that can be kicked.” Then stand-up comic, writer and producer Emo Philips said, "A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing." So the computer is a tool, but we must kick that tool or become a tool of that tool to beat it at chess, or something, I don't know, whatever...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...