The Age of the (ubiquitous, big) Screen

As much as many pan the notion, I believe we have entered the Age of the Screen. If you’re the observant type, you’ll notice screens are everywhere. There are multiples in our houses, and not just TVs. How many of us own more than one computer, tablet, and smartphone? I know I’m guilty, and likely so are you. And that doesn’t even include the screens at work, school, the restaurant, and just about everywhere else we look.

There is lots of press about the negatives of “screen time,” and to be sure, unmanaged, it is a negative, but I posit that our problem with screen time and all these ubiquitous, big screens is that we haven’t figured out how to use them yet. We’re in an era where technology is developing faster than we understand its impact, and it shows.

Follow me here: one of the main arguments against screen time is that it is addictive and changes brain development, especially in children. The fact that is true is undeniable, yet it also glosses over a particular set of facts: both the addiction and the development are manageable if we don’t stop doing the things we did before the screens. Screens are a modern addition to a long history that changes how humans behave, and what is lacking is management.

I find this subject particularly fascinating because so much of what I do right now involves screens. I create art on them. I write on them. I communicate on them. I interact on them. In those ways, screens are incredibly beneficial for me in a variety of ways. Where the screens fail me is when I use them to sate my sometimes overwhelming boredom by almost ritualistic use of the screen as brain candy. That failure is fixable. It’s a simple matter of doing other things. It’s a matter of discipline.

For me, the beauty of the screens is that they work the way my brain does. I get not everyone feels that way. But the fact is screens are here to stay, so we should start learning how to manage them for the best use possible. And that management is possible. We just have to do it.