Me, the screen-addicted and the lost art of daydreaming…

Attached to your phone?

Over dinner with a friend recently, while lamenting our always busy lives, we got talking about attention spans and how noticeably bad ours are these days. Not only that, but how little time we allow our brains to switch off, daydream, or do nothing for a while.  I’ve recently noticed how unable I am to watch an entire TV programme now without having my iPad or phone in front of me, or how on my train journey I spend the whole 15 minutes checking Twitter, Facebook and email to make sure I get minute-by-minute accounts of what’s happening in the world. In fact, some of the only times during the day that I’m not attached to a screen is when I am walking to and from the station, on an occasional swim, or when asleep. Though, EVEN my sleeping is abutted by smart devices. Before I turn off my light at night, I have one final check of all the usual places, and as soon as my phone alarm wakes me up, I hit snooze, and then the Twitter icon, in one smooth motion. We have, almost without noticing, become completely addicted to always being connected.

And I know it’s not only me. 1 in 8 have a problem apparently…

Click to see whole infographic in all it’s glory

When I was younger, I used to find nothing more annoying than my mum reading the paper while we were watching the latest episode of ER or X Files for instance. I’d always bug her to PICK ONE THING to do! Now, in our house, we may have the TV on which we claim to be watching, while at the same time I have my iPad on my lap, tweeting or browsing the internet and my phone close at hand in case the need to text comes up. My other half is even worse – he will regularly be watching two things at the same time, whatever is on TV, and also have some form of America sport (Football or Baseball depending on the time of year) on his iPad, while having his MacBook open to write, blog, email, or tweet.

It’s hard to figure out when this all became normal? When did it become okay, for instance, that when my iPhone crashed one afternoon all I could think about was how would anyone know what I was doing, where I was, or get in contact with me for that whole afternoon? Thank god, it sprung back into action after about half an hour, but not before I’d hopped onto someone’s wifi on my iPad and sent a few panicky ‘If you don’t hear from me this is why’ emails. It is all rather worrying.

It’s also why, next week, when I’m in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in France (which shhh, unfortunately does have wifi) I will doing my best to go on a screen diet. I am taking PAPER BOOKS, MAGAZINES (even though I have the iPad version too…), play real boardgames (and not the electronic versions) and as Jack Bauer used to say, generally try to ‘GO DARK’ for one week. At a recent digital conference someone said ‘Smartphones have killed daydreaming’ and it struck me as so true. So, while we are constantly ingesting a lot of information from our devices, do we actually take any of it in? And is all this screen addiction killing our imagination?

Don’t get me wrong as you can see, I love it and I’m obsessed with it. I love always knowing what’s going on in the book world, what my friends in New York are up to, seeing a newborn baby appear on Facebook about two hours after it’s born, being able to work from home and generally be more flexible with life. I’ve discovered so many amazing people, videos, books, blog posts, newspaper articles and even cheap holidays on social media, but I am starting to think that occasionally everyone should take a break (but don’t tell anyone I said this!). There is sometimes nothing better in the world, than sitting on a chair in a quiet room, holding a paper book in your hands, and not getting alerts popping up on your device at the same time.

I’ll have to let you know how I get on. (Which will probably be via a TwitPic of a deserted field in France, just so you know I’m REALLY in the middle of nowhere and coping with life away from a screen for a week. Oh, wait…)

Sarah B

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11 responses to “Me, the screen-addicted and the lost art of daydreaming…

  1. This is so true! Why is it so hard to switch off nowadays? Before I started cycling to work, I spent 35 minutes each way walking with my phone glued to my hand checking the Guardian, twitter, instagram, my emails, texts, DrawSomething… thank god I kicked my facebook habit years ago, otherwise I would’ve probably fallen down a manhole/ walked into a wall/ tripped over a dog.

    So many conversations start with ‘did you see that thing on *insert social media source here*’. We are plugged in even if we switch off! Not sure I’m ready to admit my addiction just yet though… I kind of like it…

  2. I type this on a borrowed MacBook Pro while working from home, with my Samsung N210 Plus to my immediate right, my work iPad next to that, my HTC smartphone on my left and my boring old landline (which does have a screen).

    I most definitely have a problem. I have a problem so bad that I refuse to acknowledge that it is a problem. I can daydream in front of screens. I learn so much from being plugged in that I’m not in any hurry to not be.

    I do love reading a printed book but I thrive being connected. Plus all the meetings I go to mean I’m off-screen for plenty of time during the week, and all the playgrounds I go to keep me off during the weekend.

    It might be true, that my relationship suffers. My lovely other half has banned computers during dinner (sensible, but hampers looking up things that come up in conversation) and he did try to ban all Apple products from the house (but has since downloaded a golf app for his own personal use). We tried to schedule a board game for this weekend… but I’ve got an iBook to build!

  3. I totally agree with all comments. I am a more mature lady who finds that after coming home from work I no longer look to see if any post arrived on the doorstep but pick up my iPad and check to see what emails I have received and check to see what I have missed on Facebook whilst at work. What did we do before all this technology?

  4. Agreed. It is good to have a partner who is like you were as a kid to your mum. (Although he has discovered a love of twitter.)

    Daydreaming, though, is the best source of creativity and problem-solving and I do worry if we are going to lose the ability to be brilliant if we are always half not-there. I do unplug when I am doing proper concentratey work or writing though.

    • So agree! My best ideas come when I’m walking to work actually or in the shower, and never when I’m in front of a screen, ironically.

  5. Whoops! I am reading this while watching Game of Thrones. I do find it hard to just do one thing (or do nothing). I sometimes have to put my phone in a drawer so I won’t look at it while reading.

    I think it’d be lovely to go away for a week and not go on the Internet. If only!

  6. I find that I go through phases – I do own an eReader (dear old Sony Prs-505, how I love thee!) but sometimes I just can’t get the most out of a book unless it’s NOT on a screen. I sometimes want to flop open a book and feel the pages. Then again, as someone just starting out blogging and actively looking around on Facebook and the Interwebs, it’s amazing what you can find. I’d got all these lovely proofs from Hot Key and low and behold! there’s a page for them too! Book news that’s not come a couple of weeks late once the newletters have been drawn up, printed, sent out, sorted, delivered, received, put in a pile, forgotten, found two weeks later etc!

    I have fallen into the trap though of needing background noise while I read. A TV is too loud apparently but a DVD playing on my laptop is just fineee…

    Interesting what you say about daydreaming and creativity. I can NEVER write anything good on screen. Whenever I have a long email to write or a review I always have to physically write it first in a notebook or else I end up staring at a blank expanse of Word for quite some time. Something about that big white expanse of Word just leaves my head empty.

  7. Just a thought – does anyone think the internet, and being connected, allows us to daydream in ways we were never able to before? Doesn’t being exposed to and aware of more than we ever have before give us a bigger and exciting box to think outside of?

    I’m working on my first children’s book at the moment and two years ago, when I was at uni, I came across the myth that my story now surrounds when I was supposed to be revising for a Shakespeare exam and writing a poetry portfolio …

  8. I’m the same, though only with the TV and phone – there’s no way I could watch two things at once, but watching TV and Twitter – that’s regular in our house.

    I do not have an addiction – or if I do I refuse to aknowledge it 🙂

  9. Pingback: More boys, more blogs and one year at Hot Key Books |

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