15 Dec Was 2020 The Year Of Peak Screen?
2020 was the year when screen time simply soared. Our jobs, education and our social lives all moved online. And when lockdown was enforced, we turned even more to screen-based activities to fill all that newly freed-up time.
We advocate for a healthy digital-life balance and regular time away from screens, but, we have to admit, not all of the uses those extra screen hours were put to were bad.
In fact, we think this year has seen us collectively use our screens in a lot of very beneficial ways:
#1 Staying connected
This year we all began to dedicate much more time in our week to talk to our friends and family. In fact, many admit they have been talking to loved ones more regularly this year than ever before. As we all became more comfortable with Zoom, and finally had an incentive to download Skype, casually video-calling those close to us has become a large, and enjoyable, part of our lives.
With theatres and cinemas shut, shows, films, and performances were all brought online. In the UK, the National Theatre’s ‘At Home’ project saw 16 past productions uploaded to YouTube for free, making theatre more accessible than ever before. And let’s not forget how many of us became regular attendees of all those virtual pub quizzes.
Whilst pub quizzes may not have been strictly educational, they weren’t the only form of learning our screens enabled. School and universities courses were moved online, mostly very successfully, as institutions found new ways to deliver education remotely, without compromising the quality. And if that wasn’t enough, more people spent time on educational apps; Duolingo saw an all-time usage high during the pandemic, as everyone decided to use all that spare time to finally try and learn another language.
Against all that good though, we have been aware of the bad, and downright ugly, screen habits that emerged in this 2020 Year of Screens.
A combination of a natural urge to check the news with a lot of free time, led many of us to develop the bad habit of ‘doomscrolling‘ ie endlessly seeking out and scrolling through a torrent of negative news stories online. A non-stop diet of negative news has a really negative toll on our mental health. We hope this is a habit that we’re all going to manage to kick in 2021.
#2 Zoom fatigue and digital burnout
Several hours a day spent on Zoom or Teams calls, whether for work or education, took a toll on us. The constant staring at a screen is good for neither our physical or mental health, but was sometimes unavoidable as our world shifted online. Dry eyes and tech neck were some of the physical symptoms reported. And then there was the disorientation of not being able to read and interpret non-verbal signals on a screen, as efficiently as we can in real life. All those video calls were exhausting and we soon found ourselves burnt out.
#3 Social media usage
Inevitably this year, our time spent on social media surged. Alongside it, the negative effects experienced by those addicted to social media intensified. While we adopted it enthusiastically to decrease our isolation, prolonged amounts of time spent on social platforms where toxic comparison culture flourishes, really took a toll on our mental health.
In 2020 tech was a lifeline. We were able to attend the theatre from our sofa, follow art classes from our bedrooms, and finally persuade our grandparents to download Skype. In a rather isolating year, screens gave us the chance to stay connected. However, we may look back on this year as the year we finally realised that screens, efficient though they are, can’t ever really replace the warmth and depth of our real-world connections. Will we look back on 2020 as the year we reached peak screen, and the year we finally decided to kick all our bad tech habits for good? Here’s hoping.