Time to Screen Screen Time?

Photo: Chris Montgomery, Unsplash

In an earlier blog I spoke about the lifeline that technology has given us during the madness that has been 2020. In allowing some people to work from home and enabling us to see loved ones – albeit through a screen – many have felt less isolated. However, six months on from this necessary change in behaviour, and I can safely say that I am weary of it, though I know that it’s better than not having the facilities there.

There’s no substitute for human interaction, and it’s easier to have conversations face to face than over a screen. Having recently sat in the garden for a chat with a friend I can tell you I appreciated the relative normality more than I noticed the cold. During that conversation, she admitted she too was plagued with screen fatigue, and I found myself wondering how many people it’s affecting.

While some people are content to live their lives assisted by technology, I don’t think we are meant to be so reliant on it. Given we’ve done everything from the supermarket shop to quizzes, gone are the days where those who work with computers can leave the office and screens behind. So mentally, there is less of a separation between work and home life and that can lead to frustration and burnout, which only increases when businesses can’t cope with greater demand for their online services and crash. It becomes a vicious circle when we have no choice but to use it. Bottom line: it’s better technology crashes than people, and sometimes we need to step away or modify our approach to stop that from happening.

Having to rely on technology takes the joy out of the simplest things. Not only do we rely on it to complete mundane tasks and interact with others, but as time has worn on I realise we now depend on it to show people we care about them. There’s been a lot of “I saw this and thought of you” and feeling irked because it’s taken three times as long to buy a birthday gift due to increased internet traffic. For many, there’s no respite; they go from their work computer to a streaming service to alleviate boredom.

We must be careful that our frustrations don’t accidently extend to the people we are interacting with while using it, not because we don’t care for them, but because we are tired of the monotony and frustrated by having to behave atypically. Video chats have decreased for some because the desire to check on people needs to be balanced with keeping everyone sane. Everyone knows times are hard, often there is little to say. Due to the nature of current restrictions, it’s not like a lot of people are doing much. And that’s hard too sometimes, but at least we are united in that, even if our experiences of coronavirus aren’t the same.

It’s those varied experiences that dictate how much patience we have with technology and the ones we’ve had before that illustrate how good we are at using it (or not!). As a result, some people may prioritise certain online activities or ration screen time for their own health. While a complete digital detox wouldn’t make sense in the current climate – video chats are the closest we have to guaranteed normal social interactions when lockdowns are constantly looming and it’s imperative we have that outlet – there is nothing wrong with having different bandwidths for technology. After all, if we can understand that people have different internet speeds why can’t that extend to varying levels of tolerance for technology?

Gemma Bryant, Volunteer Blogger