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Screen Buzz: A social transitioning?

In yesterday’s first of this three part series I introduced the concept of what I call a screen buzz. It’s certainly not a new phenomenon, I simply gave it a funky name.

Today, let’s talk about its fit within the context of our electronically sophisticated society.

You know, I find it interesting that the 25 questions I posed yesterday are so congruent with the DSM-IV-TRs criteria for either a diagnosable substance abuse or dependence. Well, I suppose that makes sense, as the dynamics of abuse and dependence transcend substance.

But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s article, I am not quick to slap “disorder” on a circumstance or person – including myself. And, really, for our purposes it’s not at all necessary; because all we’re doing is very calmly throwing food for feeling and thought on the buffet.

What kind of reaction do you experience when you read this stat…

The average adult American spends 8.5 hours per day in front of a screen.

Jaw drop? Need some smelling salts? Well, let’s swirl things around a bit before we flip, okay?

We’d be making a huge mistake if we don’t, or can’t, accept that 8.5 hours within the context of the high-tech society in which we live.

News flash – screens are essential to our work, schooling, social functioning, recreation, and – yes – health.

Reality says we have laptops, desktop computers, video games, smartphones, and GPS devices – and the software that makes them fascinating and essential. But before we damn the electronics age, let’s remember before such devices and technology made the scene we had TVs, books, work, telephones, radios, turntables, 8 tracks (whoa, did I just date myself), cassettes, CDs, and porn periodicals. All of which we could abuse or depend upon.

So there’s always been that non-substance fix right at our very fingertips.

Absolutely, I am not concerned about the 8.5 hours per day the average American spends in front of a screen. What does, however, concern me is the potential for altered realities that screens bring to the table. Now, one could certainly make the same case for, say, a great book; however, it’s the sophistication of the technology driving our screens that’s such a huge differentiating factor.

Indeed, someone can become very quickly consumed and isolated within the security of their manufactured world.

And I believe a star within this altered reality constellation is the replacement of good old fashioned face-to-face human communication with interaction through screens. Don’t misunderstand, I think screen-facilitated socializing is a wonderful addition to one’s relationship portfolio. It’s only when it’s used as an exclusive that I see the potential for problems.

Look, let’s be brutally honest and objective here. Whether we like it or not, our society – our very culture – is changing the way in which it works, learns, socializes, and recreates. And one could actually make the case that a rejection of screens is its own dysfunctional manufactured world.

But back to the foundational issue here. Screens – like anything in life that can be overdone – may be harmful to us. Yes, when our involvement with them leads to interruption with personal, work, school, relational, or social functioning; it’s time to look for help. Simple enough.

Be sure to come back tomorrow as we put a wrap on the series, discussing what to do if a screen buzz has transitioned into abuse or dependence.

I wonder if anyone’s had a personal encounter with screen buzzing, abuse, or dependence. How ’bout sharing in a comment?

  • karen

    i have to spend 8-10 hours a day in front of a screen at work, with people who insist on email or im when they are 10 feet away……and have been at lunch or dinner while my “companions'” text throughout—-can’t decide if i date myself by refusing to text or if it’s just a defense………i also have refused to download the new work email to my home laptop and is it ever causing problems at work……..but i don’t know how to have a relationship or a life when i am tethered 24/7 to a screen. (both are hard enough anyway!) but i am made to feel like I’m not a team player or “invested” enough in my job….and with the economy the way it is, how do you know if you are drawing healthy boundaries or jeopardizing your job?

    • Great “live” example of the wonders/conflicts of screens. And it’s a generational thing. I’m conforming, but I’d still rather actually talk on the phone with my teenagers. But I gotta say, I don’t see these forms of communication doing anything but growing and multiplying. With regard to your question at the end. That is one tough position to be in – not invested enough in your job to really want to be a team player. And it’s sad because I’ve always perceived you as someone who’d really enjoy the attachment and relationships – within the context of a position and organization you can feel passionate about and loyal to. You’ve spoken about your boss before and he sounds like someone who’s very difficult to figure out and predict. That said, and yes the economy’s tough, you really need to err on the side of caution. And if that means acquiescing to things like downloading the new work email – hmmm – you may have to. Thanks for all of your well-considered and expressed comments tonight, Karen.

      P.S. Karen has been with chipur and me just about from the very beginning. She’s always supported chipur with her frequent visits and great comments. And she’s made some very fine suggestions to me by email. In fact, in the footer you’ll see a “widget,” Newsletter Archive. That was Karen’s idea. Again, thanks so much. It means tons.

      • karen

        Thanks, Bill. i guess i can go ahead and download it again (and then just ignore the ones that come after 8 pm) the system at work crashed and i thought it was an opportune time to just not get it downloaded again and get some control back. but you are right, times are tough, and you have to do a lot of things you don’t want to.

      • I know it’s difficult, Karen. Believe me, I’ve been there. But somehow we have to cut through our personal stuff to sustain an income. Doesn’t mean it’s always going to have to be that way, but just think how much worse your circumstances would be if you were unemployed.