Fall has crept up on us. It’s time for cozy blankets, long pants, warm drinks, beautiful foliage, and …football season. I was graciously invited this week to watch Sunday night football with a few friends. However happy I was to spend time with them and watch some truly incredible physical feats, what struck me most about the gathering was that the living room boasted not one, but two flat-screen TVs. It was not long before I realized we were watching the same game from two different angles. When I asked why there were two televisions, the response in chorus was, “Football!” The anticipation of the sport and the grandeur it entails was enough to justify the abundance of screens.
I bring up this story not to single out football fans – I know for many this time of year brings with it nostalgia, excitement, comradery, and awe. These are all worthy feelings.
What this story did make me think about was how screens can impose themselves on our lives.
Somewhere in between middle school and now, screens became one of the most essential features in my life. My iPhone is the first thing I look at when I wake up in the morning; I have to – it is my alarm. It is the first thing I think of when a class ends; I have to – it is my calendar and where I get my emails. If I have to communicate with someone, I have to look at a screen.
My laptop, too, has a sacred place on my desk. When I open it in the morning it is the start of my workday and when I close it – usually just before I close my eyes – it is the end of my workday.
Recently, when buying a new pair of glasses I was recommended to include “a blue light filter” in the prescription. Whether simply a scam for an extra upcharge or not, I couldn’t help thinking that if we are in need of putting a barrier between our eyes and the screen, maybe it is the screen time itself that we should reduce.
I find this topic to be overwhelming. When I focus on the invasion of my life by screens – or even worse, the invasion of my future children’s lives – I get upset. I don’t have a ton to offer by way of solutions. There are, of course, tactics and habits to control the power of screens. The task of rewiring one’s brain is not something that can be just casually written about and I wouldn’t even know where to start.
I do want to tell of another vignette I witnessed this week. Later on that same Sunday, I approached my friend who was sitting at our kitchen table drinking a coffee, her back to the setting sun, doing The Cowl crossword puzzle. She was in a state of serenity. After reading the whole newspaper and completing that last letter in the puzzle she put down her pen and let out a resounding, “Ha.” Just her and the paper in the quiet of a Sunday afternoon. She was energized. She was in control. I loved to see it.
Reading something physical will never drain you like a screen will. So, take back some control as my friend did and pick up an easy-read book from the library – or better yet, The Cowl.