Earlier this week, I read a post on Lifehacker that got me thinking.
When new people come to my apartment there’s usually a point in the visit where they stop and ask, “wait, how many screens do you have?” (from http://lifehacker.com/5625890/why-technology-is-so-addictive-and-how-you-can-avoid-it)
I started wondering how many screens I had in my house! First, though, I had to define a screen because there are some gray areas. For my purposes, a screen is anything that displays information digitally (even just time information) but is not a digital clock. That would have sent my numbers soaring… So, the cable box is a screen as it displays the channel I’m watching, but the digital clock next to it is not. Clear as mud? Yeah, you may want to re-work that definition If you decide to do this…
For me, I came up with 21 screens in my house. Considering that I have 6 rooms (not counting bathrooms), that’s kind of crazy. We have TVs in four of those rooms, a desktop computer with 2 monitors in one and laptops, e-readers and cell phones sprinkled throughout. Is it any wonder we get distracted and sidetracked so easily? In my living room alone, I found 9 screens from the entertainment center, to the Harmony remote to the two laptops, iPad and Kindle that tend to live in there while getting charged up. These are, admittedly, decidedly first world problems, but it can be a problem.
I’m a reader, I love to consume books in any format and fashion that I can get ’em. Even though most of my reading these days takes place on a screen (Kindle or iPad), I still don’t read as much as I used to because there is nowhere in my house where I am not presented with the distraction of a screen. I could go outside – we don’t have a yard TV yet – but if the weather isn’t cooperating (and I live in Missouri – the weather rarely cooperates) that isn’t all that comfortable.
These are not just passive screens, either. Some are – the TVs don’t generally turn themselves on and beg to be watched – but some, such as the cell phones or the iPad, have reminders, alerts and various other ways they try for our attention. (Also – I just realized I’d not counted our land-line phones, all of which have screens to display the caller ID information. That’s three more, for a total of 24 screens – and I bet I’ve forgotten a few others!)
I’m the last person to argue for fewer techie toys (did you notice I have both a Kindle and an iPad? I’m a gadget whore….), but I do wonder what all these screens will do to the attention span and distractibility of our upcoming generations? There are some interesting comments at Lifehacker’s post, so if you haven’t read that one yet, go check it out.