In case you hadn’t noticed, screens are just about everywhere these days. Across the world, people are spending more time than ever before glued to their screens, playing games, binging on TV shows, or just idly scrolling through their (no doubt incredibly exciting) social media feeds.
We are media obsessed, a digital generation that just can’t seem to get enough. And I get it, I do. It’s a form of escapism, after all. You’re exhausted from work, stressed out about the million and one problems going on in your life – why shouldn’t you relax and indulge in a bit of light entertainment?
To which I say: Absolutely right, we all need to be transported away from our daily cares once in a while. Even so, we do need to retain an awareness of what we are doing, especially as the boundaries between the real and the virtual become increasingly blurred.
Here are two key points I think we would all do well to keep in mind:
- What you see isn’t what you get
Point number one, what you see on the screen is a carefully staged illusion, not a representation of reality. Now, you may be thinking I’m stating the obvious here, but tell that to the youngster who grows up around steroid-fuelled fitness models, and is dismayed by his progress in the gym. Or the anxiety-ridden teen looking at Facebook and wondering how everybody else’s life can be so perfect. Or indeed just about anybody who has ever compared themselves in any way to somebody they have seen in a film, a TV show, or even a magazine, and wished they could be the same way.
The seductive thing about film, TV, and digital media in the first place is that they can portray a staged image at will, transporting us to a whole new world. The foolish thing is to think that the same can ever apply to real life.
- Recreation, not refuge
With all the advances in technology – virtual reality, augmented reality, the increasingly vibrant fantasy worlds of computer games and other digital media – we have more and more opportunity to indulge in escapism. But if it’s getting to the point where your digital media consumption is replacing your focus on your one and only real-world life, then that’s a big problem.
According to a report by the Nielsen Company, the average adult in the U.S. now spends over 50 of their 58 or so hours of downtime per week on media for entertainment purposes. It goes to show that this is no longer simply about your stereotypical basement geek hunched over his keyboard – the obsession with the screen is mainstream.
And of course, it is far, far too much. The digital world is a place to recharge and be entertained – in moderation – not a place to take refuge from any need to think and engage with your own life and the people around you.
Because, ultimately, when we’re drawn into a life in front of the big screen, we’re forgetting one of the simplest and most basic truths: There’s only one life that matters, and it’s the one you’re living right now.
Cambridge graduate. Writer and thinker. Life enthusiast.