Is Our Obsession with Screens Actually Dangerous?

News that LG has perfected the “Giant rollable TV Screen” which can be rolled into a 3inch square begs the question: Are we too obsessed with screens?

Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, email, television, Xbox. There isn’t much that we do today that doesn’t involve looking at some form of a screen. Reading books is fast becoming a thing of the past now we have Ireaders, kindles and smartphones, the advantages of which cannot be denied; you can take hundreds of books around the world with me without breaking my back.

If you want to see a friend or cancel on a friend you can send them a message that will reach them a few seconds after you’ve sent it. This is the age of instant communication. The only problem is, in this obsession with constant social media monitoring and the accessibility of television and games, we seem to have forgotten that instant communication has existed since language began. Actually talking to each other has become a chore.

screens, computers tablet

Rights; Intel Free Press

I can go to the pub with a group of friends and look up from my own enveloping world of my phone to see four other heads staring at their laps. The person next to me is playing the latest game which seems to have spread in popularity faster than the flu last winter; even I can’t plead not guilty to the addiction. The person on my other side is scrolling through the Facebook news feed, cyber friends are more important than real ones these days.  Across from me, one friend is sending an email, another a text. Even when at home, we’d rather watch the television than any other activity. This is the only down time we know.

Social networking is of course a large part of this technological takeover. Facebook itself, as a prime example, has hundreds of millions of users not just in the UK, but all over the world. In some ways, it’s great. We can talk to friends and family even when they are hundreds of miles away. We can see pictures of their adventures and always keep up to date with their lives. And forget our own. The American Psychological Society (APA) found that students who regularly check Facebook achieve on average, lower grades. And, ironically, those who use social networks present more symptoms of antisocial behaviour. It is so easy to become absorbed by a virtual world and it is increasingly beind discovered to be not healthy. Choosing to sit inside and look at a screen rather than enjoy the world outside is often a preferred option, but so very rarely the right one.

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether this obsession is truly harmful. According to the APA, there is a detrimental effect on the health of people who engage with technology on a daily basis. This refers to people who spend more time looking at their phones, laptops and television than they do at anything else. The sad thing is that in retrospect these are not special cases. This is a lot of us, even me. If a job requires you to look at a computer screen all day and when you arrive home, you’re too shattered to read a book, we wouldn’t give a second thought to collapsing in front of the TV. In some ways, I suppose, by staying within our comfortable bubbles, we avoid the germs that lurk outside of our front doors, trends spread faster than diseases nowadays. But in a technological crisis we would be lost. We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

So what is the next step in this our era of advancement? Google glass, the thousand pound purchase that will allow you to never be without the instantaneous wonders of technology. Good or bad, I don’t even know. I can’t even claim to not possess a huge dependency on technology myself. Advancement will not stop and we don’t need to stop using it, what we need to change is out attitudes towards it. We can still look forward to the future without losing what was important in the past. Don’t stop reading real books. Carry a pen and paper around with you instead of noting things down on your phone. Play games and enjoy the sun and the rain. Let’s not let our children grow up without being able to talk and yet still know how to use an iPad.

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About the author

Rachel Quaife

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I'm currently about to go into my third year studying for a BA in English Literature. Whilst reading is wonderful and writing about that reading equally as great, writing about the issues of the world has always been my passion. Words can be inspirational and should be used as such.