The importance of NOT looking at screens

My typical working day has gone off the rails a bit lately. I’m all too aware I’ve become addictively hooked in to the internet. There’s barely a minute of the waking day that I’m not in front of a screen. My employer isn’t complaining, but it’s not good for the soul.

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Of my waking life, I calculate that most days I spend 13-14 hours in front of a screen. That’s in the region of 80-90%!

Generally, I’ll wake up 7.20 to the sound of my phone alarm. Pick up phone, turn off alarm, stretch, yawn (groan if it’s in the dark months of winter) and check emails for 15 minutes, soak up the overnight news headlines and scan US sports results. Then it’s up, showered and dressed.

As I make a tea for me and the missus I’ll check the weather for the day on my laptop, scroll through a few Facebook updates, make sure my downloads are running ok, then switch on the TV to BBC1’s Breakfast show. 10 more minutes glued to the TV screen and I’m off out the door, walking to the train station, checking more emails on my phone as I go.

On the train, the laptop comes out. I’ll generally spend the hour-long journey in to London bashing out some words for an article, a presentation or a robust email response to an over-heating work debate.

As soon as I arrive at the office I plug the laptop in and make a tea. I’m generally wired up to my laptop with headphones on for the next nine hours, bar the occasional toilet break and 30 minutes to grab some lunch, which is frequently in the canteen where I’ll unknowingly be magnetised to Sky News churning away on the TV in the corner.

On my way back home I check emails constantly on my phone to make sure there are no loose ends that need urgently clearing up and nothing new that’s come in from one of the senior managers that demands working on overnight.

Assuming that’s not the case, I’ll arrive home around 7pm and afford myself a luxurious 30-45 minutes away from any screen or communications device, other than the oldest one of all – simply talking. Shock, horror! I’ll discuss the day’s events with Mrs Money Giraffe as we muck about in the kitchen with the cats, open a bottle of wine and cook some food.

By 8pm we’re sitting down to eat – in front of the TV. We’ll watch an hour or two as we chomp and drink then for me it’s normally back on to the laptop to browse news, read some alt geek ideas on a random blog or place some sports bets.

We retire around midnight with laptop by my side. More of the same – web browsing, write a few more hundred words or so for work, catch up with friends via online chat. Then it’s a final check of emails on the phone before I set the alarm, turn the lights out and away we go to dreamland, all set to start another turn on the wheel of screen-addiction.

As I said, most days I spend 13-14 hours in front of a screen – in the region of 80-90% of my waking life. But why is this so bad? After all, I actually like many of these activities. I love reading blogs and staying in touch with the world, writing and learning. I could do with less time devoted to work duties, but that aside, I rely on screens for many of the things I genuinely enjoy. But still, I know it’s bad. I know it’s bad because it cuts me off from other ways of living, breathing, experiencing. I know this all too well.

The more time you spend with a screen, the less time you spend with people. It prevents you from relishing other wonderful facets of life that I know are there to be tasted every day – simple things like running up hills, listening to birds and trains, drunk-hugging a friend, lying in the garden or jumping around to a live band.

So as I (inevitably) sit and type the remainder of this article on the train on my way home I will resolve to NOT look at another screen tonight. And reduce my ridiculous screen consumption down to 60% a day on work days and 20% on weekends. There is a wonderful life beyond the screen. I need to go find it again.

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