In 6th grade, my English teacher made my class read an article about how, on average, teenagers spent 8 hours a day on various electronic devices. I thought that was stupid, because 8 hours was as long as we were in school each day, and that was a very long time, and it wasn’t possible to be on one’s phone for that long in one day. Now that I’m not in 6th grade anymore, it’s become glaringly obvious to me that it’s completely possible to spend that long in front of a Screen.
I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot blame all of my Screen time on quarantine – my daily average back in December was probably 6 or 7 hours each day. Now, however, it’s probably somewhere around 15 hours.
Among Zoom classes, homework, Netflix, and GamePigeon, I spend almost 90% of my waking hours sitting in front of my computer or squinting at my phone. And I think it’s taken its toll on my health. For one thing, my eyesight is perpetually blurry – if I look at something farther away than my usual arm’s length, I can’t seem to focus on it. For another, I’ve never been more tired in my life with so much free time. Every new notification, every text and every assignment, drains a little more of my life force, but because I’m never away from my phone, I can’t avoid them.
This isn’t to say, exactly, that our increased Screen times are bad things. Fifteen hours, maybe, is bad. Staying up until 3AM every night, staring into the very blue light that keeps us awake, is bad. But when we’re in quarantine, we have to do what’s necessary to stay as mentally healthy as possible – our main form of human interaction is through the Screen; our entertainment and distraction is through the Screen; our assignments and structure come through the Screen.
Right now, all we can do is moderate. Set a Screen limit on your phone (and don’t just hit ignore when the notification that you’ve reached your limit pops up). Or schedule a few hours each day where you don’t look at any electronic devices. Go for a walk or sit outside and listen to the rain. Fold origami or write a letter. Use the Screen time you have to Google a list of things you can do without a Screen, and then do them.
It’s hard to imagine what we’d be doing in quarantine if we didn’t have electronic devices. Maybe we’d be in the Middle Ages, not quarantining, dying instead of the Black Plague. Since we’re lucky enough that we have a million activities at our fingertips even when we’re stuck inside, saving the world one person at a time, we should wield that power wisely.