I’m Rubbish At…Looking Away

Apparently, according to The CEO Magazine “Screen Addiction Is The Latest Pandemic Coming For You!”. Seems a little flippant to compare to COVID in my opinion. But nonetheless today I’ll be taking a fun little look at NOT LOOKING AWAY.

I’m sitting at my laptop, back curved, neck broken in twain, eyes slightly more crossed than they usually are, practically dripping with the irony of what I’m about to write. I stare into the humming void of my dying laptop. A little chime comes from my phone stating “Your Screen Usage Data For The Last Week Is Available”. I look. Cheers for the reminder lads. Another chime pings “Your Lives Have Reset” courtesy of Lemmings. The worlds most addictive game. And I realise I am but a lemming, following other lemmings off the cliff into the endless pit of re-runs of Schitts Creek, reruns of It’s Always Sunny, and re-runs of me having the same argument with arse holes who think that COVID is a hoax in the Wales Online comments section. When will I learn that trying to win against these people is like trying to nail a blancmange to the wall with a slipper and nails made of floppy warm wax? 

But, I don’t have a screen addiction right? I can look away. Well, for context last week, I ended up watching videos of soldiers coming home from war and surprising their dogs. I watched 4 compilations in a row. Each was 10-15 minutes long. And boy did I weep. I also watched 9 different videos called things like “Which Tenor Sang The High Note in Phantom Of The Opera the Best” (spoiler it’s Michael Crawford obviously, you goon). During all of the above I was simultaneously playing Lemmings (this is very much not sponsored by Lemmings). Literally could not just do one or the other. 

Ben finds it tricky to cut out screens

So, I guess maybe I do? Maybe I do have a screen addiction. Oh god. I mean, I do have a very addictive personality. When I was a kid I used to do so much late night snacking that my parents almost put a lock on the fridge. I once ate a whole ham at 1AM. A whole. Entire. Ham. If that’s not addiction I don’t know what is. 

Screen addiction is categorised as “Prolonged use of watching TV, video games, scrolling through social media – all of that use acts like a digital drug for our brain.” Wow. Heavy. Best do something about that. So I tried something new in aid of writing this article. I decided to turn off my phone, and my laptop for 4 hours. Only four hours. That should be easy, right? So off I switched. I placed my chair next to the window, looking longingly out into the rain, pretending I was a Victorian wife awaiting her husband’s return from the war. I read a play, imagining I was wearing a turtleneck like a Proustian scholar in an Austrian cafe. I tried to go for a run (see article about exercising in the pandemic to work out how well that went). I thought to myself, 4 hours must be up by now right? I did all those activities. Well… how would I even know? My clock is on my phone/laptop. There is literally no way of knowing. It is impossible. So.... he says ominously foreshadowing what happened next, I’ll just turn it on to see how time is coming along. Just for a moment… and… my lives have refilled on Lemmings. Need I explain what happened next? Obvs not.

Flopped. Failed. Flubbed. Fluffed. And f*cked it. 

Yes, I could have turned the phone back off, gone back to the Victorian lady/proust scholar/bed boy running. But all of the above would have been much improved with music, and also my friend had sent me a very funny meme of a fat dog, with the caption “when you on your diet and your friend ordering pizza for you” and an accompanying message saying “this is you” (see cursed image). Ha. Ha. And now I felt bad about myself so I thought, oh I’ll just play some lemmings for a bit, but that bit turned into a while because it kept offering me the option to add 10 extra lives by watching an advert, then a couple of the adverts were actually really good at achieving their goal, cause next thing I know I’m using a slingshot to fire aeroplanes into the sky to see how far I could get them to go. And now I just need some entertainment in the background, because playing the game by itself was boring, so on goes Schitt’s Creek, and it’s the one about “Herb Ertlingers fruit wines” where Moira says “Cralbapple” at the end, which is my favourite episode. So I have to watch all of that, and by the time that’s done my lives have refilled on Lemmings, and next thing I know it’s dark. 

Distractions, distractions...

Old people (you know the ones, they’re on that documentary where they put kids into the nursing home to cheer them up) like to say the whole “oh well in my day we were happy outside, running around, falling in mud, and chasing a dog into a canal with a stick”. Yeah, sure, OK, fine. But I’m sure that wouldn’t have been true had you had these screens. I’m sure you’d have been sucked right on in like the rest of us. I want to do better, I really do. I’m trying. But even to meditate, and find your inner wellness nowadays, you need youtube. You can’t even put your phone on airplane mode or the video will stop. You can do breathing exercises, but you’ll always forget to put on “do not disturb” so the WhatsApp ping will absolutely bollocks your inner chakras right up.

So… what do we do? There must be a healthy middle ground right? Somewhere between 2 screens at all times, and dog chasing. It’s really hard at the moment especially, because we’re stuck inside so much. We have nothing but these four walls, and our lovely lovely phones. And even when we can get back out and at ‘em, can you remember the last time you left home without it? I cannot. And I bet you can’t either. But, and hear me out, what if you could. The likelihood is that no one will die, and if they have then it doesn’t matter whether you find out right away. Maybe, just maybe, once a week leave your phone upstairs while you watch Line of Duty, this season is very complex, so it’s probably best without the distraction. You don’t NEED to go to sleep to the sound of old episodes of The Office (suspiciously specific example). And after all our lives would be so much better if… wait. My lives just filled back up on Lemmings. See ya.