Mindless Consumption: The Way We Spend Our Days

We live in a world fueled by mindless consumption. Everything we watch, listen to, view, scroll through, thumb up, thumb down, like, dislike, comment, share, post, approve, disapprove, does not do anything to strengthen our minds or improve the human condition. At the tips of our thumbs, we can access an almost insurmountable quantity of information, yet we spend time crushing candy or using lenses to give us puppy dog faces.

Before the “O.K. Boomer” fad rushes in, take a moment and think about the following.

Recent studies from sources such as RescueTime, Pew Research Center, Nielsen, amongst others, find the average daily time spent looking at our phone screens runs from three to six hours a day. This doesn’t mean we don’t read the news or research topics on our devices, but I’d assume refreshing Twitter feeds, liking pictures on Instagram, or watching funny cat videos on Facebook occupies most of our times. Those three to six hours may seem ordinary but think about the math. Considering the averages, at the end of the year, one spends approximately 1,092 to 2,184 hours a year behind their screens. There are 8,760 hours in a year, which means we look at our phone screens for roughly ¼ of the year. This does not take into consideration the time spent on our laptops, playing video games, or binge-watching Netflix or the newly released Disney+, which I’m sure will only contribute to our zombie-like daze. According to a Nielsen article based on Nielsen research, adults spend approximately 11 hours a day consuming media.

I understand at the end of the day we want downtime. I believe downtime is an essential part of keeping us sane. Who really wants to get home from working eight hours a day, or listening to monotone professors lecture for 50 minutes several times throughout the day, or deal with students who would much rather watch YouTube videos of people playing Fortnite in class rather than absorbing significant information pertinent to class content, then go straight home to research random topics for the fun of it? But there must be other alternatives than immediately resorting to our cell phones. If you want another way to experience downtime, I suggest picking up a book, the actual, objective entity where you must physically turn the pages, and give your eyes a rest from the blue light poisoning your brain. An article in Forbes claims teens experience higher rates of depression the more time spent on cell phones.

My suggestion for limiting the time behind the screen is the following: place your index finger over your social media apps, wait for all the apps to start doing their synchronized squiggly dance, then press the “X” that hovers in the top left corner of your apps. The time spent on your phone will dwindle.

This doesn’t mean you can’t go on your social media sites. If you want to check on the cyberworld, grab your laptop and search for your site of choice in the search engine. Then, spend five to ten minutes catching up, and when you’re up to speed, close your laptop.

By no means am I some “chosen one” handpicked by the gods to diminish the world from our tech-savvy lives. Much like the next person, I enjoy viewing my social media feeds to stay in touch with my friends or keeping up with current events. I also don’t spend every second of my day nose deep in a book, but I believe there needs to be a further balance. When out with friends or walking to and from classes, place your phone in your pocket and enjoy the world around you. Create conversations with your groups. Watch the campus squirrels wrestle one another. Setting down the phone will not kill you. You may experience withdrawal-like symptoms, but you can get through it.