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Five Ways To Defeat The Screens

February 16, 2020

(image via wikimedia)

The screens might seem like a new problem, but they have have been around for generations.  The first screen, the television set, was often called “The idiot box” because people would stare vacantly while watching shows that we make fun of today. This was back when there were only three television channels.    When my family finally got cable in the early 1980s, my dad would sit on the couch and click the remote mindlessly and be uninterested in everything.  The screens are not new.

Today we have more screens than ever.  Families might have more than one television, more than one computer/laptop screen, more than one phone/tablet screen.  Most families (except for the Amish) probably have more screens than family members.

Even though I’ve lived most of my life without so many screens, I have been addicted just like almost everyone else.   I held out against the smart phone for a little bit, but once I could read literature on a screen, I was hooked.  For a few years, I was reading most books on a tablet or my phone.  I then started watching videos and, even worse, I began reading the comments underneath the videos.  I constantly checked headlines from dozens of news sites, despite knowing that most of the news sites had the same stories.

My posture got bad (it had never been good anyway).  My eyes started twitching.  I stared at my phone at random moments, even when I had no reason to.  Luckily, I was born without all this technology and I’ve lived without it all my life, so it was easy to create a template that helps me rule the technology… or at least lets me think I do.

1.  Read actual books instead of digital.

This one’s first for me because I’m (kind of) a book blogger.  For a time, I really liked reading books on my phone.  But whether it was the brightness or the size of the screen or whatever, my eyes started twitching and my vision got worse.

That’s okay.  I’ve spent most of my life reading actual books.  I easily went back to reading actual books, and soon my eyes stopped twitching, and my vision has improved a little.  I have the advantage of a big city downtown library that gives me access to more free books than the average reader can get to, but a lot of people have access to big city main branch libraries and don’t take advantage of them.

2.  Set the timer.

Social media sites want us to stay on as long as possible.  If I’m not careful, I can lose hours just to mindless screen jumping.  To avoid this, I set the timer.  Yeah, I use the alarm on my phone, so I’m using the tech I’m trying to minimize to minimize the time I spend on tech, but it makes sense to me when I’m not trying to explain it, and it works.

3.  No screens one hour before bedtime.

Since screens can get me riled up, I turn off the computer and put the phones away at least one hour before I go to bed.  This way, I can concentrate on what I’m doing the next day.  And I’m calm when I go to bed.  If I read, I read a book that I know won’t get me fired up.  If I get too interested, I start working on math.  Math has always put me to sleep quickly.

4.  Establish at least one non-screen habit.

When I was a kid, I collected comic books, and that kept me from watching too much television.  Now that I’m older (and newer comic books suck), comic books don’t work for me anymore.  I like to write, but that means sitting in front of a screen.

Now I’m writing the old fashioned way, like I used to do before word processors and computers were household items.  I handwrite most of my rough drafts until they’re almost ready.  Then I type them up.  Even though it takes longer this way, I can write without being dependent on a screen.  Yes, I need a screen to get an audience, but I’d rather rely on a screen than go to an actual writer’s group.

Writer’s groups… Ugh.

5.  Set up a phone landline.

I’m not saying the tech grid is going down (I’m not that kind of blogger… yet), but if it does and cell phones stop working, then we’ll need our landlines again.  When I stopped using my landline years ago, I thought I was being slick by saving some money.  Instead I’m flushing even more money down the drain with cell phones (that all of us use).  There’s no need to carry a cell phone with me all the time in my own house when I have a phone hanging on my wall.

Some people seem to like relying on their screens.  That’s okay, I guess, but If you want to control how you use your technology, at least you know there are easy steps you can take.


Even though I don’t want to give up too much of my dependence to the screens, I’d rather have the screens than have to go to writer’s groups again.  If you’re a writer, and you’ve never been to a writer’s group, I have some horror stories for you.

Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Vulgar Guy

(image via wikimedia)

25 years ago, if you wanted anybody to read your writing and give you a free honest critique, you had to join a writer’s group.  There were no blogs for writers to get feedback.  Literary agents rarely sent anything except a form rejection letter.  Publishers didn’t send anything back at all.  Family members always loved what you wrote (or pretended to).

It was tough finding a good writer’s group after I had graduated from college, and I had to suffer through a few disasters before I found the right fit.  This was before the internet, so I had to search through the ads of newspapers, looking for a writer putting a group together.  I went to book shows and writer’s conventions, trying to make connections.  I’m an introvert.  I was horrible at making connections.  I was always jealous of extrovert authors.  Authors who could talk without effort, they had it made.

Back then, if I had wanted to publish an independent book, I’d have to use my own money to make copies and sell them from the trunk of my car in parking lots.  I couldn’t just write an ebook like The Writing Prompt and put it up on the internet.

No, 25 years ago, if you were an aspiring author with no connections, you had to suffer through the writer’s group experience.

One of the first nightmare writer’s groups I tried met in the back of a book store.  I learned about it in the want ads of a local newspaper.  I lived in a major city at the time, and there were bookstores (and aspiring writers) all over the place.  This bookstore belonged to a franchise that no longer exists and the store took up way too much space in a plaza that also no longer exists.  The lot is for a condominium/townhome complex now.

Read more here!

Technology is great (especially if you know how to control it), but you appreciate it even more when you’ve lived most of your life without it.  And speaking of screens…

Old Things That Are Tough To Explain: You Could Only Watch it Once

(image via wikimedia)

“It won’t fast forward!” my youngest daughter complained as she waved the remote control at the television and dvr box.

“That’s because the show is live,” my oldest daughter said.

My youngest looked exasperated.  She has been accustomed to watching recorded programs or videos uploaded on sites like YouTube.  The concept of a television show being broadcast sometimes doesn’t make sense to her.  She understands it, but she forgets every once in a while, and then she gets mad.  I don’t know if she gets mad because she can’t fast-forward or because she forgot she can’t fast-forward.

“That’s stupid,” she said and flung the remote onto the couch.

When I was a kid, I told her, we didn’t even have remotes.  You had to get up and change the channel.  And that wasn’t even the worst of it. There was no VCR or DVR.  If you really enjoyed a scene on TV, all you had was the memory of it.  You couldn’t go back and rewatch it.

If somebody at home interrupted the show, or stood in front of the television, you couldn’t go back to see what you missed.  If you disagreed with another viewer about something that happened or what a character said, you couldn’t go back and replay it to prove who was right.  All you could do was argue.

Read more here!

What do you think?  Do you spend too much of your time on a screen?  What else can you do to control the power of the screens?


  1. Perhaps McLuhan’s postulation about, the “medium being the message” was/is true?

  2. I only needed to bring the laptop to bed with me once (to read blogs) to realize it was a bad idea – I couldn’t shut my brain off afterward and sleep eluded me. Funnily enough, though, my Worded Pro game on my phone puts me to sleep every time…

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