In a 2012 Parks and Recreation episode, the beloved character Tom Haverford (played by Aziz Ansari) gets into legal trouble after crashing his car due to texting and driving. In order to help Tom break his smartphone addiction, the judge comes up with an unusual punishment: Tom is not allowed to look at any type of digital screen for a week. This of course devastates Tom and leads to some funny attempts on his part to skirt around the ruling. Ultimately, the episode’s humor stems from the fact that Tom can’t imagine life without technology and struggles intensely when he’s forced to try to live without it.
I can sympathize with Tom, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. We spend a great deal of our time staring at screens: smartphones, TVs, computers, tablets and others. Our everyday life revolves around the things that we can do on these screens. We use them for communication, for productivity, for entertainment, and even for health and safety. Our screens can do everything, and so we spend a lot of time with them. We couldn’t really do life without them at this point.
As our dependence on screens has increased, so has their size. Imagine a phone from ten years ago compared with a phone today. Even imagine a phone a few years ago compared to phones today. Screens have taken over the entirety of our phones, replacing any physical buttons, and now the screens are increasing in size, making our phones even bigger. TV screens have gotten massive as their quality as improved, and we are just on the brink of the introduction of 4K resolution to consumers. Laptops and tablets pretty much stay the same size, but overall, screens are getting bigger and invading our lives more and more.
But they’re not just getting bigger. They’re getting more pervasive. Have you seen a Buffalo Wild Wings lately? Screens are becoming a part of our everyday lives to the point that we’re hardly able to avoid them. They’re in our bedrooms, our classrooms, our restaurants, our churches, our offices, our cars, and everywhere else. If there isn’t a TV or a computer in the room, we pull out our phones, allowing screens to become a part of the atmosphere we’re in. Even if we’re not using them, the screens are there, and they make a difference.
I once had a professor who refused to allow screens to invade the classroom space during our time together. He blocked our view of the computer in the room and had everyone take notes by hand. He didn’t make a big deal about it; it was just a part of his teaching style. But one day, he brought a TV into the room to show a video, and it was weird. The screen felt foreign, like it was invading a space where it wasn’t welcome. And I felt much better when I came back for the next class and saw that it wasn’t there. Because screens change things.
I’m not saying screens are bad. I probably spend more time staring at a screen than most other people I know. It’s my job, and it’s necessary for my education. Also, it’s juts a lot of fun. There are days when I feel like doing nothing else but staring at a screen for a while, and it can be great. I love screens! I’m just saying that they make a difference, and we might do well to be aware of that. I know I wrote a lot just to say that, but I hope this post has been helpful (or at least entertaining) to you. Thanks for reading, friends, and I’ll see you next week!