Boycotting the Box
For many of us, abstaining from screen based entertainment would rank amongst our biggest fears. The mere thought of it is enough to have you fleeing, wide eyed and screaming into the depths of the nearest Currys, to assume foetal position amongst the flickering, humming comfort of technology. Jack Cummings braves the unknown and discovers the illuminating consequences of shunning his screens.
We all know that staring at a screen all day is bad for us; computer monitors, televisions and phones all add to our daily screen-time and can build up a host of eye problems. This kind of dependence is largely monitored with children, but what about the average student’s reliance on visual technology; where a regular day consists of checking emails (or Facebook) on a laptop or phone, working on a computer throughout the day and watching television at night. A standard lecture today might involve the tutor encouraging us all to stare at a screen while we all type notes on our own portable versions. In a time when even the humble book is steadily being replaced by pages on a screen, can a student survive in a world without these devices?
Upon moving away from home for the first time, the luxuries of first year provide us with the facilities to secure our visual fix. We are provided with instantly accessible internet and some of the more expensive halls in Leeds even supply televisions. This pattern is often broken by the wasteland of second year, in which an addiction to screens must be self-funded. My struggle for the cheapest possible internet deal left my housemates and me with a month wait before we would be able to connect online. Furthermore, the staggering cost of a TV license left us with a redundant television with pride of place in the living room. It is also worth noting that signal is almost unanimously temperamental in the Hyde Park and LS6 area, which close to eliminates the possibility of using a phone screen to reliably grab a visual fix.
The necessity of using the University’s online portal made a month without internet simply impossible, so the short term solution came in the form of the library and the many others clusters on campus. In the week before tuition began, I found myself walking to University with the sole intention of checking my emails and Facebook. The only consolidation was the twenty-something notifications that had mounted on my profile from several days of inactivity. Hopefully this impressed the students writing dissertations around me enough to quash any hateful thoughts that they might have been harbouring about my laziness. This regular pilgrimage has provided me with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the computer clusters around the university, not to mention the perks that each provides. Lesser known areas like the chemistry computers in the Parkinson became a place for work, while ‘fun’ computers such as those found on the Edward Boyle social floor became a place for leisure.
The inability to watch any variety of television has proved much more difficult to solve, with clandestine viewings of ‘Fresh Meat’ in the library being particularly taboo. Another failure to survive without screens came with the arrival of borrowed DVDs. Unfortunately the library’s collection of films is less than extensive, unless you happen to enjoy BBC costume dramas or foreign language movies. The craving to lose myself in some kind of screen-based entertainment led me to more regular cinema visits and countless trips to the pub to watch football games for which I would usually have absolutely no interest.
After finally regaining internet last week, it has been interesting to reflect back on my time away from a regular screen. My housemates and I noticed that without computers to hide behind, or a television to avoid conversation, we actually began to talk a lot more. This change in social dynamic suggests that screens actually make us more reclusive and less socially compatible. Entertainment took the form of playing cards; something that seldom takes place whilst sober in a student household. It has to be said that a game of Ring of Fire played with cups of tea is somewhat less exhilarating, though perhaps socialisation unaided by alcohol is something lacking within the student lifestyle.
A month spent without easy access to screens has helped to highlight a complete dependence upon them, both from society and myself. So much of our world is now technology based, ranging from our online profiles to the latest television programmes; even this article could not have been written without the use of a screen. We can therefore feel so cut off and isolated that it seems impossible to survive without them, which of course is not the case. Instead it is preferable to focus on the positives of screens, providing we cut down on their use: how much more efficient they make us; how much enjoyment they give us.