I’m sure you’ve all felt this at various points, but I’m feeling it particularly acutely these days: I’m sick of my computer.

It’s not like I am currently pounding out a thesis on it or anything. It’s not like I am obliged to spend many hours a day staring at its shiny little screen, a gaping portal to anything-I-want-to-know-about-anything. But I’m sick of it none-the-less.

I’m tired of the way it sits, beckoning me, from the corner of my apartment. I hate the way it slurps up hours, never satisfied. I hate the way I feel compelled to sit before it, helplessly waiting for things to happen — for emails to arrive, for interesting things to unfold in the news, for new pictures of my friends doing mundane things on Facebook…whatever I can get.

I’m also sick of being surrounded by other people whose eyeballs are glued to their gadgets. Taking the train back to Kingston on Wednesday, for example, I was dismayed by how many people were wiling away the hours before their screens, both hand-held and laptop-sized. I’m tired to nearly running into people on the street who can’t control their compulsive texting.

Recently, I’ve found myself reminiscing to a time when my daily existence didn’t depend on my computer. I’m old enough to remember a time when communicating with other people through the computer was a distant dream. I remember the ‘experiment’ we participated in as part of a grade 13 writing class — we had to exchange and critique poems written by high school students in another part of the country.  We did it “on-line” (the term was new back then) and, even more amazing, had our writing critiqued by a professional poet sitting in yet another location. It was, I will admit, sort of exciting back then (I sound old, eh?).

Well now that computing is part of the daily practice, and that my little black box gets the bulk of my time during a typical day, the novelty is wearing off. What I’m sick of, I think, is not necessarily the practice of computing, but the hold my computer has over me (and, if I can trust my observations, pretty much everyone else at this university, too!).

That’s why I am seriously considering trying to take a break. Obviously, as I student I can’t entirely give up my computer. I need it in order to find journal articles, to keep up to date with events happening on and off campus, and to generally stay engaged in the world (going off-line surely would be social suicide, right?).

But I think I’m going to spend the weekend rediscovering books. Maybe it’s the fall, but I’m feeling the urge to get cozy with physical pages, reading in the world of here and now, putting the portal-to-everything off to the side for a bit. We’ll see what happens.

For now, I’m going to head to the library and take out a stack of stuff so that I have somewhere to start this weekend… I’ll let you know how it goes on Monday. Happy weekending!

(Anyone else got ways of managing screen time? Have we reached the point of needing to establish screen-life balance? If so, how do we do it? As always, I’d love to hear from you!)



1 Comment

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One response to “Screen-time

  1. Three thoughts:

    1. In the pre internet days, I was terrible at keeping up with distant friends/family, because I never felt like I had time to sit down and write a letter, although I wanted to. Now I’m all too ready to leap to respond to an email and have reconnected with people from the distant past (most of whom I was never that close to in the first place) on facebook . I’m sure I spend MUCH more time writing personal emails and facebooking than I ever did writing letters. Why? It doesn’t make sense!

    2. In the pre-internet days, remember how many hours people (myself included, at times) spent watching TV? At least internet time tends to be more interactive, and usually involves engaging with real people – albeit at a distance – rather than sitcom characters. I feel that may be an improvement.

    3. Nevertheless, I think we should try to spend as little time as possible on the computer. Just spending so much time that close to an electromagnetic field is probably unhealthy. And definitely, while you are on the computer, you are not moving your body like your body was meant to move. If your work involves sitting at the computer, your leisure should be non-computer activities.

    Now I should try to practice what I preach.

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