Screens

CN: suicide attempt

There’s a meme doing the rounds at the minute, featuring a photo of a little log cabin in the woods, dusted with snow. The words that go along with it are something along the lines of, if the cabin contained enough food and firewood but no tv or internet connection, and you got to have $100,000 at the end, would you stay there for the month of January?

On the surface it seems like an innocent enough meme, and an easy enough choice. I could do with a rest, with someone else minding the kids while I snuck off to a cabin in the woods. Where I could sleep and eat and sleep some more, and maybe read a book or two. Bonus if it came with a cat.

But it really is a double edged sword. The implication is that tv and Internet are bad, and if you are strong enough to resist both, then you deserve a whole heap of money. And if you can’t, if you turn down the offer of the cabin in favour of technology, then you are spoilt and weak willed, a dig I presume at Millenials.

Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we have the cabin in the woods and also tv and Internet? A lot of us would forego the money even, if there were enough food and warmth. But for us to forego screens could be the difference between life and death. For some of us, screens are just as vital as food or warmth.

The most extreme example of this I can think of happened just before the Christmas holidays. A Facebook friend of mine took an overdose of various medications. She reached out on FB for help getting to the hospital. At the time she claimed it was an accident, but later, again on FB, she admitted it had been deliberate. Internet connection, for her, literally saved her life.

In my own case, having an eating disorder, if I chose the cabin in the woods, which if you remember contains plenty of food, I would probably starve to death. Or at least suffer a really bad relapse. I use screens to distract myself while eating, either reading blog posts, newspaper articles, or watching tv. And no, I can’t use a paper book to the same effect as they are too cumbersome and need more use of my hands. I also rely a lot on online support in the form of support groups to encourage me to keep eating.

I also use screens to distract myself from pain. As a child people used to complain that I watched too much tv. I’d come home from school, exhausted and in pain, and crash out in front of the screen. I did read a lot of books too, but often reading when in pain just gives me a headache. Or my hands hurt too much to hold the books. Which is why, though I love knitting and colouring books, I can’t do too much of either. My hand often just don’t co-operate.

But right now, by far the biggest need I have for screens is in order to connect with others. That other meme I hate is the one, and there are several versions, of a bunch of teenagers sitting beside each other, and each one is looking their phone, instead of talking to each other. It implies that ‘kids these days’ no longer connect in meaningful ways. I call bullshit on that one. Technology, instead of destroying connection amongst humans, is actually leading to us connecting in ways that are better than ever. The Internet, literally, leads you to being connected.

My only friends, apart from my husband and children, are online. My childhood friends, all two of them, have both emigrated, like a lot of Irish people. And since international phone calls are still expensive, even if I could get over my intense phobia of speaking on the phone, I physically cannot talk to them without the internet. I used to be pen-pals with one of them, when I moved abroad for a year, and that was nice, waiting for the postman every week and reading massive long letters about things that were already old news. And I suppose I could write nice long letters in the cabin in the woods. But that would mean trudging through the snow looking for a post office.

My other online friends, I’ve never met in person. I don’t have a phone number or physical address for them. I’d never have even known they existed without the internet. They have made me feel welcomed, loved and connected in ways offline people never have. I would lose that communication with them. Sure, I chose to go offline on occasion, especially if there’s been some nasty drama or bullying online. But it’s a choice. And in the cabin in the woods, it would be more like forced exile.

Then there are the people who type to speak. A lot of them use augmentative technology to communicate. If a friend popped round to visit them, in their cabin in the woods, would they have to sit in silence, work hard to communicate with gestures and sounds that are difficult to make? Should they be forced to forgo technology to prove they are not entitled and lazy?

I’ve only touched on a few of the issues with that meme. There are lots, lots more. People have varying needs and varying degrees of reliance on tv and the Internet. And using memes such as these , that ironically become viral due to use of the Internet, to judge people for using screens, is just wrong.

 

[a photo of a wooden cabin, surrounded by trees, and covered in snow.]

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One thought on “Screens

  1. I really liked this blog post; I shared this meme myself on facebook and at the time I was only thinking, “wow, it would be nice to have $100,000 in a month to pay for grad school; I would be able to afford to go to school at a slower, part-time pace and I wouldn’t have to work at the same time. Could I forego internet and TV for a month for all that? Yeah!” One month in the cabin in exchange for three years of rest. But you’re right, the post is shaming of people who rely on internet/TV for perfectly legitimate reasons and that’s shitty. I didn’t think of it in those terms at the time. I also use the internet to connect to most of my friends, and to distract myself while I’m eating. When I saw this meme the only other question I thought of at the time, other than what I would do with $100k, was how would I distract myself while eating without internet/TV? I decided I would run through scenes I remembered from tv shows/movies/books in my head. That’s what I sometimes do even now. But who knows how long that would be effective?

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