We May Be Better Off Cutting Screen Time

Two social media marketing/analysis organizations, “We Are Social” and “Hootsuite” produced a global digital report on various statistics regarding screen time and internet use. There are many fascinating results worth digging into but one in particular stands out.

The survey based report found that American citizens spend just over six-and-a-half hours per day using the internet on average. That’s just below the worldwide average of six hours and 42 minutes spent looking at a screen per day. Filipino citizens spend the most time, 10 hours per day.

It is increasingly obvious that people are spending more time on their devices, but seeing the actual number is quite shocking. Similar to the way a scrape doesn’t hurt until you see how much it’s bleeding. Our eyes are glued to a screen for basically as much time per day as they are closed during sleep. Software companies, app developers, and service providers have conquered our undivided attention at the expense of our daily tasks, personal relationships, maybe sanity.

Screen addiction is doubtless bad for our social and personal health. I am too young to recall a time when it was not imperative to read news or status updates within seconds of their delivery. It must have been nice not to think about what bad things are happening in the world until the newspaper arrived in the morning. What a luxury to be unaware what old high school classmates are up to.

Worse still, foreign governments use social media to manipulate citizens of their adversaries. Scammers prey on less techy, vulnerable internet users for financial gain. Unethical advertisers purchase our brain’s data and convince us to buy things we don’t need. Without shame, people post photos of their food at restaurants. Frightening stuff.

So, what are we to do? Surely our lives are only growing more digitized and interconnected. We know our devices and their apps are expertly designed to capitalize on our impulses and addict us. Maybe we’re all doomed to lives of mindless thumb scrolling.

There is no easy solution. Tech companies’ tactics are ever more sophisticated and our ability–even desire–to resist them is getting weaker. Most modern work is done online, socializing, paying bills, entertainment et cetera. It still might be in the interest of our collective stability and personal satisfaction to reduce screen time actively with dedication.

Like anything else addictive, it is difficult to quit “cold turkey.” Yet it is a worthy pursuit to at least trim the fat. Try leaving your phone in your car when running errands. Turn notifications off or sound alerts sure to suck you back into an app vortex for the next hour. Most importantly by far, please, on behalf of all civilized life on earth…don’t use your phone on the stairs!

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.