Through the past fifteen to twenty years, the place of media within daily life has expanded from something you would tune into once in a while, to something now constantly hovering all around you. A massive amount of people (the author of this piece included) now spend an outsized portion of their life staring at screens, sometimes several at once. When you wake up, on your morning commute, at work, at school, and once you’re back at home once the day ends – you are most likely gazing at some kind of screen, be it a phone, computer, or TV. And now, there is a whole generation reaching adulthood who have known nothing other than that for their entire lives. The role of entertainment, of screen time, is now something intrinsically intertwined with the concept of daily life for most people.
There are certainly many drawbacks to our current era of constant screen time, ones which, if you’re reading this, you are most likely already aware of. There has been no end to (almost always valid) criticisms of the negative effects of the Internet and other media’s place at the center of modern life. Issues like the ease in which one can recede into social isolation because of the Internet, the scarily tailored advertising using deeply personal data which companies can easily exploit, the threat of addiction, and the physical eye health problems that can be caused by excess screen time have become widespread topics of discussion and concern – and for good reason. But we’re not living in a computer-controlled dystopia just yet, and there are certainly many positive aspects to the coexistence of screen time within daily life.
The unparalleled access to information at the tip of one’s fingers is certainly something that has improved the lives of many adolescents curious about the world around them, who are able to learn and understand more about any subject they wish than any previous generation has in human history. It still remains to be seen in the grand scheme of history, but there’s certainly a possibility that an increasingly Internet-connected and savvy public may have a deeply positive impact on political engagement and pursuit of knowledge on a global scale – as long as we work out the internet’s many issues with misinformation, of course. As well, people’s ability to interact with others predominately online has led to a lot of social isolation, but it perhaps has brought just as many people together. People with similar interests, hobbies, beliefs, or life experiences who may feel isolated in the real world can find community and commiseration with others around the world.
The internet can be a hateful place, but also a deeply empathetic one.
There is a delicate balance that must be maintained in a world where almost everyone spends just as much time looking at their screens as they do in the real world, a balance where the internet and media don’t supersede the real world, but compliments it. Our phones, computers, and all of our other electronic devices have just as much power for good as they do evil, but only if that power is harnessed and controlled in the right way.
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