We All Scream for Our Screens

Last week I ruminated on the joys of unplugging for a bit. But truth is, it didn’t take me long to reconnect.

Granted, my job is a little different than most, where being (ahem) plugged in is part of the gig. I’m one of the few people who vows—in the context of a performance review—to watch more television. Still, it’s a little shocking how much time I spend with my screens. I’ve got several demanding my attention constantly, it seems, and I might spend more time staring at them than I do looking at, you know, real people.

But if I’m overdoing it on screen time, I’ve got a lot of company.

According to a shiny new study by Nielsen, adults in the United States are spending an average of 10 hours, 39 minutes consuming media every day—a full hour more than we spent on media last year. That’s not time spent answering e-mails at work, by the way: It’s watching television shows, streaming movies, playing video games and all manner of other electronic entertainment diversions.

No wonder we complain that we never have any time. Our screens take so much of it.

The biggest media time-suck is still live television, Nielsen says, even though we’re cutting back on the boob tube a little. On average, Americans spend about 4 hours and 31 minutes watching TV every day, compared to four hours, 34 minutes in 2015.

So why, if TV viewing has actually dropped a bit, is our media time up? Blame our smartphones and tablets. We’re streaming about 60% more on our phones this year compared to last, and 63% more on our tablet computers. Indeed, those two devices alone account for 49 minutes of that extra hour. As a culture, we’re cutting back on traditional media sources a little … but we’re engaging with new media outlets a lot.

“We are moving ever closer to the world of Wall-E,” Relevant magazine declares. And admittedly, those numbers are pretty staggering. But is Nielsen’s study truly a sign that we’re overly dependent on screens for our entertainment these days? More importantly, how much time do you spend with media? Do these figures sound grossly exaggerated or just about right?

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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