Does it feel like screens are eating your life? Maybe they are. At least, metaphorically speaking.
In the first quarter of 2018, the data hawks over at Nielsen report that the average American adult spent an average of 11 hours and 6 minutes a day watching screens. (And for those really good at math, that works out to, gulp, 666 minutes daily!) Despite the inroads smartphones and tablets have made, traditional live TV still constitutes the biggest chunk of that daily screen-ing time, clocking in at a whopping 4 hours and 10 minutes.
We spend a lot of time chronicling the risks of kids screen time, but clearly many of us as parents would do well to make some changes to our viewing and web-interacting habits too, says the editorial board at Utah’s Deseret News. Their op-ed, “In our opinion: Parents put down that phone,” references multiple studies documenting adverse outcomes when parents spend too much time engrossed in screens. The editors conclude, “Parents feel constant pressure to give their children superlative opportunities—working hard to get them placed into the best schools and accepted to expensive extracurricular programs. But they would do well to remember that perhaps their best investment would come from simply putting their phone down and being a little more present.”
But putting down our phones seems to be a pretty difficult thing to do for many folks, be they young, old or somewhere in between. Take British Millennials. A new survey of 500 U.K. residents between the ages of 18 and 34 suggests that about 1 in 10 would be more inclined to sacrifice their pinky than to give up their phones. An even bigger percentage, 23%, said they’d relinquish one of their five senses before having their beloved phones pried out of their four-fingered hands.
Other things they’d willingly trade for their phones? Alcohol (38%), shoes (26%), their car (20%), their favorite food (19%), travel (16%), sex (15%), heat during the winter (12%) and seeing their family and friends in person (6%).
Even though evidence continues to mount suggesting a link between social media use and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, depressed teens are increasingly turning to those online outlets when they’re struggling. Experts say that mentally ill young people seeking support online is a double-edged sword, one that could help them in some ways but perhaps keep them from getting necessary medical assistance.
Given all that, taking a break from technology might seem a perfectly reasonable thing to do on vacation. But even there, screens intrude—prompting articles like this one from CBS News: “How to unplug from your tech during vacation.”
Now, you might think, “Just turn it off!” would be sufficient advice here. But Yahoo! Finance columnist David Pogue tells CBS News that it’s just not that easy. What’s needed, he suggests, is a defined plan: “Announce to your family or companion what your expectations are. Say, ‘I’m allowed to check the sports scores before bed, I’m allowed to check the news in the morning, but other than that I’m off the phone.’ And that way, you will guilt yourself and they’re allowed to nag you.”
Next up, a popular pair of smartphone apps, Facetune and Facetune 2, are facing critical scrutiny themselves from critics concerned about their influence on younger users. The apps allow users to retouch photos of themselves, digitally editing out blemishes, whitening teeth, etc. The result? Much better pictures of anyone using the app. No wonder 50 million users have downloaded it.
But at what cost? A new study from the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that teens who digitally retouch pics of themselves before putting them online were more likely to have body-related and eating-disorder issues. And it’s not just posting such pictures that can be damaging. Even looking at these retouched shots can impact how we think of ourselves. Speaking to Good Morning America, clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula said, “The more people look at doctored images, the more likely they are to actually start … seeking out cosmetic procedures.”
Social media issues like these are at the heart of the much-buzzed-about indie pic Eighth Grade, which rolls wide across the country this weekend. In an interview with Relevant, director Bo Burnham (who’s just 27 himself) said of that aspect of the film, “Well it’s about the internet in part. I would say it’s about the way you view your life as a story you need to live well, and yourself as a character that needs to be put together to be seen. The internet turns life into a performance, and the movie’s about the struggle of who we are and how we want to be perceived.”
Image and perception are at the heart of the troubling phenomenon known as “revenge porn” as well: taking private, sexualized images and sharing them vengefully with others after a relationship ends. The anti-pornography site Fight the New Drug reports that revenge porn results in outcomes similar to sexual assault for those victimized by it. A separate study indicates that 80% of teen girls who’ve been sexually assaulted are likely to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in the months following those attacks.
Beginning our descent for this week’s Culture Clips news on a bit more cheerful note, Netflix vice president of original material Cindy Holland said at the 2018 Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour that the streaming service is focusing on providing more faith- and family-oriented content for subscribers. On a parallel track, Variety reports that Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, who’s an outspoken Christian, is broadening his personal brand base; those moves include working with Sony’s Affirm Films to produce family-oriented and Christian content.
Finally, 80-year-old acting icon Anthony Hopkins said this week that while attending Alcoholics Anonymous in late 1975, someone challenged him to take the “Higher Power” part of AA’s treatment seriously. Pagesix.com reports that while he was there, “a woman changed his life,” by asking him “Why don’t you just trust God?” He did, and he says he hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol since, nor been tempted to do so.