It’s 2015, and we are living in the Digital Age. Technology abounds and is used in the vast majority of the population’s lives. Almost everything in life is easier, more efficient, and faster than ever before. With over 3 billion internet users across the world, information and communication are right at your fingertips. Television guarantees that entertainment is just a click away. Video games provide an escape to another world for a few hours, where you can be anything you want to be. We have smart cars, smart TVs, and smart phones. However, too much of a good thing can be, well, a bad thing. I do not set out to shun these technologies, as I, too, enjoy the products of the Digital Age. I simply want to offer my personal opinion insight and pose a few questions to ponder regarding what I feel is increasingly excessive use.
The Internet brings knowledge to those who seek it and brought the world closer together.
Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media ensure a simple and quick way to communicate with those you care about. It is also a soapbox to share opinions, ideas, and those adorable cat memes we all know and love. YouTube lets you find videos both entertaining and informative. Amazon meets all of your shopping needs. It lets people like me reach out to readers like you. The upside is tremendous. The downside lies in the time many people spend online and the impact it can have on their real life. According to a statistical analysis by WeAreSocial.net conducted in January 2015, worldwide, the average user spends about 4 hours and 25 minutes per day online. Per year, that is about 1,612 hours, or roughly 67 days. Of that average, around 2 hours and 25 minutes are spent on social sites, or around 882 hours (roughly 37 days). All this time… sitting in front of a screen or looking at a phone. While I do concede that of course some of this time is used for learning or for important purposes, and that communication and entertainment are important, I can’t help but feel as if that number is a bit high for a day to day basis for the average user. Some say it is not a problem, but how many times have you seen friends, families, and even couples out supposedly socializing with each other, only to see each person checking his/her phone every five minutes? Being able to multitask is all fine and well, but what happened to talking to someone face to face, not face to phone? It is hard for a relationship to grow stronger when everyone is talking but no one is listening, but what happens to the relationship when no one is talking or is talking very sparsely? The Internet that brought the world together seems to separate people on a real life level.
Television has long been one of the population’s favorite pastimes. Educational and entertaining programs can be found, and there is a genre for everyone. Widening ones knowledge and keeping up to date on certain current events is important, and a momentary reprieve from day to day life may be needed on occasion. However, some people forget the policy of everything in moderation and find themselves sitting in front of the television for hours at a time staring blankly at it no matter what is on. It turns into a distraction, not a “luxury”. A study by eMarketer.com in April 2015 found that the average American watches about 4 hours and 15 minutes of television a day. That’s over 1,551 hours a year, or 64 days. Television is not even an interactive media, yet people funnel so much of their time into it that they complain if “nothing is ever on television.” I would think that is a good chance to spend one’s time more wisely, instead of continuing to flip through the channels one just went through 5 minutes ago. Families and friends can rarely even sit down and have dinner together unless their eyes are glued to the television (or the aforementioned Internet). Is there any wonder that so many of our children spend so much time watching television instead of devoting that time to studies and being a kid?
When it comes to interactive media, most people immediately think of video games. No matter which platform, game play, or genre you prefer, there is something to suit your fancy. From arcadepastime to art form, the industry has made great strides. While I love scoring headshots on little angry aliens and using the mighty “Fus Ro Dah” to send bandits flying as much as the next person, I do see many people getting lost during their voyage to new and exciting worlds. Gamers are usually classed as casual (players that are more infrequent in gaming or play casual games) or core (players that may play different and typically more difficult genres of games and usually spend more time doing so). TheESA.com shows 2015’s figures stating that the average American spends more than 6 hours a week playing video games online. That’s more than 312 hours a year, or 13 days. However when you look at the 34 million core gamers, as a study by the NPD Group did in 2014, they average 22 hours a week (1,144 hours a year, or about 48 days). While social, multiplayer and co-operative games do offer a form of interaction, and even can forge new friendships across the globe, it still is not a substitute for social interaction outside the virtual world or exploring the beauty this world has to offer.
While looking at these figures, I can’t help but notice the quality of relationships I see day today: familial, romantic, and friendly. I see a plethora of divorces, breakups, unhappy marriages/relationships, broken families, cast out family members, and fair weather friendships. While I am neither naive nor stupid enough to believe that all of society’s problems lie in the technology we enjoy (some people are just cruel and selfish), I do have to pose this question to my readers: What would our society be like if we spent as much time, energy, and passion (or preferably more) on our relationships and the world around us as we do our technological distractions? If we cut down just a little on our media consumption, and poured ourselves into what matters, what would the world look like? Would there be more successful and blissfully happy romantic relationships if couples talked to each other and knew each other as well as they do what is going on online and on TV? Would more families get along if they knew what was going on in each other’s minds, especially their children? Would less people feel as if they were stabbed in the back by their friends if they all listened as well as they post meaningless statuses to Facebook? You cannot change some people of course, as I said some people are just cruel. But what of the incidences that rise from lack of meaningful conversation and time spent together?
This is not a call to arms against technology. Everyone enjoys it to a degree and it is important to have hobbies and interests. It is important to expand one’s knowledge. It is just as important to not let everything consume you. Enjoy the things technology has to offer, by all means. But don’t forget there is a living, breathing world around you. Take a walk, have a face-to-face conversation with the people you care about without looking at your phone, take your significant other out for the night, go dancing, have a family board game night, go shopping at a real store, live. People depend upon screens as if they are afraid they will miss something, while they miss what goes on right in front of them. Time is finite, and the one thing everyone on his/her death bed wish they had more of. It would be a pity for so many people to waste so much of it behind a screen, only to have to look at a monitor as they watch their vitals fall in the end as they wish they had done things differently. Wishing does not make it so.