Hours, days, months, years. Add it all up and how much time have you spent in front of a computer screen?
According to recent studies done by Nielsen, Ball State University, and other organizations, teens and adults are spending an increasingly greater amount of time perched in their chairs with their hands on a keyboard. Actual numbers very between studies, but it’s clear that many Americans are spending 30 or more hours a week online and doing other computer-based tasks.
It’s really no surprise. It’s not difficult to imagine students, the unemployed, and anyone with a desk job spending even an entire workday in front of a glowing screen doing everything from typing up papers to project research to balancing their checkbooks. And after all the mundane tasks have been completed? E-mail, instant messaging, YouTube, Facebook, and so on. At what point do we fight back against this tsunami of technological advancement and say, “Enough!”
Personally, I understand the affliction. In fact, if I’m away from my computer-or at least a computer-for too long I begin to get anxious. I pine for the Internet like it’s a lost lover, a key component of my existence without which I am incomplete. After a while of being separated, I just know that I have to get back to it. I don’t really know why; I just know that I do. Consider this scenario:
My friend: “Hey dude, do you want to go check out this awesome band tonight? Their music is incredible, there’s always a ton of hotties at their shows, tonight is free beer night at the bar, and there’s even going to be a million dollar giveaway!”
Me: “Oh, sorry man, I can’t. I have important things to do on the Internet!”
Yeah, that didn’t happen. But it could have.
Online role playing gamers have it worse. A 2008 documentary called Second Skin profiles a number of Everquest and World of Warcraft players, many of whom spent 40 or more hours a week stuck in these virtual worlds. One of the participants, Dan, got so addicted that he refused to do anything else and, as a result, lost his girlfriend, his business, and his home. Two others, Anthony and Andy, were members of a collective of guys who holed themselves up in a house together for over a year to do nothing but play WOW. Eventually all three broke away and stopped devoting themselves to this life of battling digital monsters and collecting nonexistent gold. Dan went on to get a new job; Anthony got married; Andy got his wife pregnant.
Did you catch that? Yeah, apparently getting off the computer and spending time with real people, in the real world, increases your odds of building meaningful relationships and, apparently, even having sex. Astonishing.
That right there should be enough to convince you, the computer-addicted cyberfiend-and you know who you are-to put down the mouse and step outside for a bit. Feel free to go about town, speaking to people as you pass, and keeping your social skills up to par with little comments like, “My, those storm clouds sure do look ominous!” And while you’re at it, be sure to do something physical. A jumping jack or two never hurt anyone and they’re a lot more fun than the heart disease that inevitably follows a sedentary lifestyle fueled by Red Bull and Hot Pockets.
To be clear, none of this is to say that computers are evil. They’re not. There’s certainly no reason to storm the Intel headquarters with torches and pitchforks, crying out for blood. But exercise caution. Recognize the computer for what it is: a tool. By all means, use it for everything from word processing to entertainment, but don’t give your life over to it. You are a human being made of flesh and blood and not a digital creation of bits and bytes. So smell a flower, pet a dog, go for a run, and laugh with a friend in a way that doesn’t require you to type “LOL.”