Lately, screens have become a part of our everyday life as common and expected as food or drink. Living in a developed world, we depend upon phones (whether ‘i’ or not), tablets, television, laptops and computers; a lot – some would say far too much. The strange glow (or blue light) shining on our faces has already been proved to be bad for us, and the long term effects of wifi and 3G travelling through our brains constantly are not conclusively known. The fast ‘rise to fame’ of accessible technology is a big problem, as no long term results are available to tell us what damage (if any) these things are doing.
And it’s also a very unnatural situation for humans to be in. As one of Google’s Creative Directors, Tom Uglow puts the problems with this reliance in an interesting way:
I’d like to start by asking you all to go to your happy place, please. Yes, your happy place, I know you’ve got one. Now I’d like to you to mentally answer the following questions. Is there any strip lighting in your happy place? Any plastic tables? Polyester flooring? Mobile phones? No? I think we all know that our happy place is meant to be somewhere natural, outdoors — on a beach, fireside. We’ll be reading or eating or knitting. And we’re surrounded by natural light and organic elements. Natural things make us happy.
Perhaps this other example illustrates what screens are doing to the human race more. Below are a few photographs from a series called ‘Removed’, by the photographer Eric Pickersgill. In it, he aims to highlight the ‘social and physical implications [of these advances in technology] that our slowly revealing themselves’. He asked people to stay in the same positions he came across them in, while removing their screens.
Weird, huh? These people look like zombies: but they are us.
Yet, knowing all these problems with screens, why do we still spend so much time on them? In the United States, people spend a jaw-dropping average of seven point four hours every day looking at screens. That breaks down to 147 minutes spent watching TV, 103 minutes in front of a computer, 151 minutes on a smartphones and 43 minutes with a tablet. Roughly seven and a half hours; that’s about the same time the average person sleeps for each night – it can’t be good for us!
Uglow has suggested a reason for this obsession. He argues that it’s not the actual screen that addicts us; it’s the steady flow of instant, varied and satisfying information the screen gives access to. The feeling of connectedness, of being part of the human race and knowing what everyone else is up to, is what we find so hard to turn off.
Uglow understands that screens are not the best at getting the information across, and so has dedicated his working life to inventing other ways we could access this stream of information, such as this, ‘wonderfully mechanical’ YouTube viewer, which uses natural light to create what could become a healthy to screens.
So, to conclude; we have a problem with our dependence on companies such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft to provide us with the vast amounts of information we, as a society, now need. The proud hypocrite in me would like to tell you that I’m writing this on a mini iPad while half watching the TV, I did my maths homework five minutes ago on the computer, and last night I listened to music on my iPod to help me get to sleep. I feel bad about it, but it doesn’t stop me from using the screens almost constantly. Solutions need to be found quickly for the problem, and that’s where people like Tom Uglow come in.