Look up from your screens from time to time

By Murphy Obershaw, A&E Editor

One of the most simple advancements in technology is the push to put everything from books to meetings online. While this may be an awesome solution during COVID-19, the likelihood that these solutions will be here to stay bothers me.

I think it started with the push to publish books online. This would help save trees, keep students from lugging around heavy backpacks and be more convenient.

But I really like reading a physical book. Reading ebooks used to be difficult for me, and while I don’t really have that struggle anymore, I still prefer physical books.

As someone who has writings published in both newspapers and literary journals, it’s really nice to hold a paper or journal and say, “Yeah, that’s me.” The accomplishment of getting something published feels more real when you can hold it in your hands. Anyone can put something online, but when it’s on paper, you know it’s important.

The print industry is dying, and I don’t want to see books and newspapers go away.

Along with books, now classes, meetings and sometimes entire jobs are being moved online. While it is a way for us to keep going during COVID-19, I don’t want to be doing this forever.

Monday and Tuesday should have been snow days, but we all have Zoom now so classes were just moved online. That’s just wrong. Technology has taken snow days away from not just Newman students but students at several other schools too.

My dad keeps saying that people are realizing that they don’t need to pay for big office spaces when their people can just work from home.

This always makes me cringe even though I am a writer and may have a job that is mainly online in the future. I just don’t think every job should be online. I don’t think it’s healthy for someone to stare at their computer for seven hours a day and not have little interruptions like in-person meetings or answering someone’s question about something.

This leads me to my main issue with the push for everything to go online: We’re staring at screens all the time, and it can’t be good for our brains.

I stare at a screen so much during my day. I am on my computer reading a textbook, typing an assignment, in a class or meeting. A professor projects something on the wall during class. I get a text or notification on my phone. I really can’t escape it.

Even when it comes to relaxing, it doesn’t seem like you are really relaxing unless you are doing nothing. Not nothing as in thinking to yourself or staring into the void but watching TV.

My head physically hurts from all the screen time that I have to deal with now, and I literally feel worried that I am becoming stupider. My short-term memory was already shoddy before looking at screens all day, and now, I frequently have to stop and wonder what I was doing. There have been two instances where I completely forgot how to spell the word “anxiety,” a word that I have written dozens of times before.

I’m so worried that we are killing our brains, and it is only going to get worse if we continue down this trend of online books, school, meetings and jobs.

I just want a break from screens. I want to stare at real pages from a book, not a webpage with my textbook on it. I want to see my friends’ and coworkers' faces, not images of their faces.

I miss when TV was a treat at the end of the day. It was a time to think, “I got my work done. I deserve a break.” Now it’s, “My brain is fried, but it’s only going to get worse if I stare at another screen.”

When I was in grade school, the school library used to do TV-free (later changed to screen-free) weeks to encourage kids to go a week without screens, and I would try to participate every year. But now, I don’t think anyone would be able to do what they are asked to do in a day without screens, let alone doing that for a whole week. And that’s sad.

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