Blackspot

Screen Addiction

Does the overuse of screens alter our perceptions of reality?

Deconstructionist philosopher Avital Ronell teaches that a few generations ago European travelers in the Swiss Alps found the sight of the mountain peaks so overwhelming that they equipped their carriages with special screens to block their view. They looked through tinted glasses to mediate the experience of raw nature. Today, standing in the Alps or outside our home, we no longer rely on colored glasses. Instead, we use digital cameras, cell phones and movie players to filter our experience. And we have become so accustomed to the view that we prefer pixels to sublime reality … we are addicted to the screens we use to dampen the rawness of life.

We are a society in the grips of a widespread screen addiction. Many of us spend upwards of eight hours a day staring at a screen. We carry video capable iPods, Internet savvy BlackBerrys and graphically stunning portable game machines. We steal glances at these little screens throughout the day and then tuck them back into our pockets and return our gaze to the big screens sitting on our desks. In order to relax, we plop ourselves in front of a widescreen TV. We spend more time making eye contact with our screens than with our neighbors.

The screen is, by design, the ultimate distraction. Even when we try to avoid looking at screens, our eyes are naturally drawn to their flickering lights. The dazzling special effects of our iPhones and our video games stimulate our brains more powerfully than reality. Given the option of looking at the slow pace of nature unfold or the frenetic speed of a big budget movie playing on a tiny screen, we often choose the screen. But training our brains to expect constant visual stimulation has troubling consequences.

Neuroscientists are beginning to address the long-term consequences of visual addiction. Books such as iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind argue that the increase in screen use has rewired our brains and led to a decrease in our empathy and our ability to read facial language. The authors of iBrain ultimately propose a policy of moderating screen time, I wonder if this goes far enough. As visual technologies advance and a greater proportion of our working lives are spent online, there isn’t one, individual-based, solution.

Society is addicted to screens. What we need, therefore, is not a policy of personal moderation but a cultural revolution. Our visual addiction is masking our fear of feeling existence to its fullest. Our task is to build a movement to unwire our social relationships, to unlink our workplace communications and to accept the slow pace of life in order to directly confront the existential dilemmas that we face.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He is writing a book on anti-screen activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

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54 comments on the article “Screen Addiction”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 54

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Anna Breeze

Doesn't everyone seem ready to be nostalgic about an event even before its even over! So often when im overseas I see tourists walking along with a camera glued to their eye taking a photo that they can examine later in more detail, a mediated experience rather than seeing it themselves. It is as if we have to prove to others what we've seen, how cultured we are. Its as if society is a teenager that is having an identity crisis and has to prove to everyone what they are, what they stand for, what they believe in. Rather than living and experiencing lives for ourselves we are constantly consuming for the sake of others

Anna Breeze

Doesn't everyone seem ready to be nostalgic about an event even before its even over! So often when im overseas I see tourists walking along with a camera glued to their eye taking a photo that they can examine later in more detail, a mediated experience rather than seeing it themselves. It is as if we have to prove to others what we've seen, how cultured we are. Its as if society is a teenager that is having an identity crisis and has to prove to everyone what they are, what they stand for, what they believe in. Rather than living and experiencing lives for ourselves we are constantly consuming for the sake of others

Anonymous

I totally understand exactly what you were saying in this article, I see it in my age group completely, but I am an extreme case of this. From around the ages of 15-17 all I did was sit in front of my computer for all of my spare time, I hung out with four friends maybe once every other week and during my spare time in school, but we mostly watched movies together. A few months ago I realized exactly how addicted I was and decided to get out of my bedroom. I was no introvert before this, I just eat up information so I thought it was healthy. Now that I'm trying to make new human connections I can't. I go to parties, I go to functions, I am literally trying everything I can to start socializing and apart from my handful of friends I cannot for the life of me interpret how to behave and respond in these situations, I just don't get it anymore. I used to be great at improv and drama, but those skills are completely gone. In my years in front of the computer I developed a handicap, I cannot connect with anyone that I wasn't friends with before I went through my 2-3 year period of reading on the computer for ten hours a day. I am a good listener, except for that I have nothing to offer. After 7 months of giving myself a limited amount of time allotted for being in front of the monitor or tv I'm still incredibly frustrated by how much progress I've made. This summer I'm going camping/hiking for at least a month with a few people I am acquainted with, however I have no idea what effect it'll have but I'll go crazy if I still can't come back to earth.

Anonymous

I totally understand exactly what you were saying in this article, I see it in my age group completely, but I am an extreme case of this. From around the ages of 15-17 all I did was sit in front of my computer for all of my spare time, I hung out with four friends maybe once every other week and during my spare time in school, but we mostly watched movies together. A few months ago I realized exactly how addicted I was and decided to get out of my bedroom. I was no introvert before this, I just eat up information so I thought it was healthy. Now that I'm trying to make new human connections I can't. I go to parties, I go to functions, I am literally trying everything I can to start socializing and apart from my handful of friends I cannot for the life of me interpret how to behave and respond in these situations, I just don't get it anymore. I used to be great at improv and drama, but those skills are completely gone. In my years in front of the computer I developed a handicap, I cannot connect with anyone that I wasn't friends with before I went through my 2-3 year period of reading on the computer for ten hours a day. I am a good listener, except for that I have nothing to offer. After 7 months of giving myself a limited amount of time allotted for being in front of the monitor or tv I'm still incredibly frustrated by how much progress I've made. This summer I'm going camping/hiking for at least a month with a few people I am acquainted with, however I have no idea what effect it'll have but I'll go crazy if I still can't come back to earth.

Anonymous2

"I am a good listener, except for that I have nothing to offer." Listening is the best thing you can offer. I strongly believe that by listening, you'll attract more people into your life (if that's what your goal is).

Anonymous2

"I am a good listener, except for that I have nothing to offer." Listening is the best thing you can offer. I strongly believe that by listening, you'll attract more people into your life (if that's what your goal is).

Anonymous

Don't force yourself to listen to something you don't want only to attract more people into your life.

Anonymous

Don't force yourself to listen to something you don't want only to attract more people into your life.

Anonymous

I believe there two points to be made in this article. the first being oversumption and the second being pseudo experiences. In the case that too much of anything is bad for you, dependence causes some level of rewiring. whether its evolution or our ability to access such creature comforts, we as human beings have to choose to stay connected as a species. The purpose of technology and the abuse of technology are blurred lines. As to the second point, every experience you have molds you in some form or fashion. It is a known fact that speaking to an automated response vs a live person is a #1 customer complaint. That is because people want to relate to a person. If you had to choose a conversating with a live person or texted over a social networking site, which would you choose. Most will choose the instinctual answer.

Anonymous

I believe there two points to be made in this article. the first being oversumption and the second being pseudo experiences. In the case that too much of anything is bad for you, dependence causes some level of rewiring. whether its evolution or our ability to access such creature comforts, we as human beings have to choose to stay connected as a species. The purpose of technology and the abuse of technology are blurred lines. As to the second point, every experience you have molds you in some form or fashion. It is a known fact that speaking to an automated response vs a live person is a #1 customer complaint. That is because people want to relate to a person. If you had to choose a conversating with a live person or texted over a social networking site, which would you choose. Most will choose the instinctual answer.

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