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I Can’t Worry About Screen Time Right Now

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Mia Feitel

A passionate defense of something totally inconsequential.

When the overlords at Apple announced a new feature that would tell users exactly how much time they spent staring at their phones, it felt like time we finally accept that George Orwell was right all along. The New York Times released a gloomy piece about the families of the Silicon Valley elite forbidding their children from looking at screens altogether, which meant they knew more than we did and that, quite possibly, “the devil lives in our phones.” The concern soon snaked into our New Year’s resolutions, when we swore to commit to less screen time. If Bird Box were a true story, the unseen monster was really just an iPhone 6, 7, 8, 10, XR, and we all better find our bandanas/hot guy with a great smile swiftly.

Looking at a screen for an extended period of time can’t be good, and countless doctors have warned against children and adults interacting with omitted blue light from phones. I concede all of this is true (blue light bad, no light good), but honestly I just don’t have the time or energy to worry about this particular calamity right now.

The world is ending.

When I eventually die, I pray it will be in my sleep, peacefully, after living a life I loved, surrounded by family and friends. That’s seeming increasingly unlikely, though: the reality of the situation is that global warming, ISIS, North Korea, the sharp rise of hate crimes, lack of gun control, unclean water supplies, Donald J. Trump, systemic racism, and the millions of other issues plaguing the world are far more likely to take me out than something that beams pictures of puppies into my eyes all day. I find it impossible to believe that 30 minutes of scrolling on Instagram will be my downfall; if it is, my tombstone can truthfully read, “She died peacefully, doing what she loved.”

There are bigger fish to fry, so please just let me have this.

I need to volunteer, learn what composting actually entails, compost, save even one dollar, pay my bills, call my mom, not take showers just because I’m bored, stop drinking like a fish, never wear bathing suit bottoms as underwear because I didn’t do the laundry, wash my hair, workout, set goals. Not on that list? The one thing that grants me a momentary reprieve from all that shit. Going on Instagram and liking outfits I can’t afford, stalking strangers I’ve never met, and posting annoying photos of my dog and fiancé is relaxing. A zen getaway on my phone.

It’s actually not that big of a deal

A new guidance published by British pediatricians says that there is little evidence that screen time is as detrimental as previous reports have led us to believe. The report, released by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK, states that “the evidence base for a direct ‘toxic’ effect of screen time is contested, and the evidence of harm is often overstated. The majority of the literature that does exist looks only at television screen time.”

And the choir said?

Max Davie, RCPCH Officer for Health Promotion, added in a statement following the report that, “Although there are negative associations between screen time and poor mental health, sleep, and fitness, we cannot be sure that these links are causal, or if other factors are causing both negative health outcomes and higher screen time.”

TLDR; It’s really not that serious.

To my critics, yes, I might just be one of the criminally insane characters in Bird Box urging you to open your eyes and see the (blue) light. Sure, screen time might be a concern. But I’m already buried by a to-do list that seems to grow longer and more complicated by the day. When I reach Gwyneth Paltrow levels of wellness (and wealth), I’m sure screen time will float to the top of the list right alongside what sort of jade egg I need. Until then, let me be on my phone as much as I want.

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