In the middle of the night a loud unfamiliar woman’s voice in our bedroom jolted us out of a deep sleep. “Text message from 805 467-9803.” It was 4:30 in the morning. After twenty incredibly annoying minutes fumbling around with endless setting possibilities we discovered that a feature on Mike’s new smart phone had accidentally engaged in “drive mode”.
In addition to yawning and whining, I began thinking about the power of our devices to forcibly interrupt our thoughts, emotions, and activities, to take over our lives. Our mystery voice was a quirky problem, but not all that unusual as random tech-related distractions go. New device, feature or app? Stop. Buy it. Figure it out. Use it. Google Play and Apple’s App Store both have more than 700,000 apps available for download.
Beyond our statistical willingness to compromise health, work and school achievement, relationships, and safety for a media “fix”, just how far will we go to sacrifice time, money, and personal power to the screen gods?
• Are we so distracted by our devices that we’re mindlessly handing legislators a pass on responsible governance?
Absorbed in screen media, has Washington become just one more form of “reality” entertainment – free of any responsibility for authentic accountability?
While our serious issues grow larger and more intractable every day, according to Bloomberg, people over age 15 spend an average of 58 percent of their leisure time watching television, playing games and using the Internet. A Harris Poll reported that even several years ago we were spending 13 hours a week gaming on computers and consoles, and, that anyone over the age of 2 is watching live television an average of 34 hours each week, plus another three to six hours of taped programs (Nielsen Report).
• Are we so distracted by our devices that monumental income disparity between the super-rich and everyone else grows unchecked, without powerful push-back?
Absorbed in our entertainment devices, who has time to take action to change corporate and government policies supporting a continuation of this inequality?
In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office reported that incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent, whereas the income of the remaining 99 percent rose 1 percent. While the middle class disappears and the poor become poorer, the average user of screen media spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting, using social media and other forms of online communication (LiveScience).
Have our electronic entertainment and communication addictions become modernity’s version of Rome’s “Bread and Circus”, Huxley’s mind-controlling palliative, soma, in Brave New World to control the masses. Or, is this the advent of a new feudal system of consumers, kept quiet with endless electronic distractions, indentured by debt to the suppliers of their entertainment fixes, and unable to think or act on their own behalf. Heads down in our devices, how would we know?