Unplugging leads to simpler life

I am so sick of staring at screens. I do not understand why they have to be so pervasive in every aspect of modern life. It’s like we have given up the right to take in what information we choose and the manner in which we consume it.

What bothers me is that I feel this fosters a passive way of taking in information. I get so annoyed when I click on what I think will be an article to read, and instead, it’s a video.

I don’t want to sit through that; just give me a transcript that will cost me a fraction of the amount of time, not to mention that I’ll be more engaged if I’m actively reading.

I feel like this creates a culture of wanting to have stuff explained to us rather than reading and processing the information ourselves. I remember buying my computer years ago and getting ready to sign the contract. The sales clerk started explaining it to me, I assume to hurry things up.

The irony was that this actually delayed everything because I had to wait for her to finish so that I could go over it myself — I am not going to sign a contract that I have not carefully read.

I also don’t like being forced into encountering things against my will. When I go to the gym, there is this bank of TV screens in front of the rows of bikes, treadmills and ellipticals. I don’t wear my glasses when I go in there because they’re big and heavy, and I don’t really need to see if I’m on a stationary machine.

So it really irritates me when I can still see the captions on the screens. For the record, if I can read something in the distance without my glasses, it’s really, really big.

Maybe I don’t want to be inundated with sensationalistic news programs and trashy TV shows, but I don’t seem to be given that choice, even when I’m deliberately muting one of my senses.

(You may ask why I still belong to this gym. Several reasons: It’s cheap, I needed somewhere to go in the winter, they have free pizza once a month, and I have a contract that doesn’t end until next year.)

I would object to being made to eat junk food against my will, and I consider this to be the mental and emotional equivalent.

Do we really have to be entertained everywhere we go? Restaurants, the bank, waiting rooms — they all have screens. Can we not be away from a TV for even a few minutes? Is it that we feel we need to be fed a constant stream of information because it’s too much trouble to actively seek it ourselves?

Are we that passive that we can’t read a magazine in a waiting room or maybe compose our grocery list while we work out?

Are we that afraid to be alone with our thoughts? Or are we terrified of trying to have an actual real life conversation with another person?

Then there’s the issue that much of what we are exposed to is marketing, creating a sense of dissatisfaction with our lives and convincing us that buying certain products is the solution.

Do we really not see through this? We need to be on our guard against the barrage of advertising slung our way. Remember that television broadcasts are referred to as “programming.” Think about that for a long while.

Try going for a digital detox. Unplug from everything and see what happens. Take walks outside, play old-school board games, write letters by hand on physical paper. Patronize establishments that don’t have TVs and explain that the absence of screens is why you are there.

If you are confronted by unwanted media, get really bold and ask for the intrusive stream to be shut off. You can legitimately say it’s for health reasons.

I remember encountering kids while growing up who weren’t allowed to watch TV, or maybe the family didn’t even have one. I though it was extreme at the time, but now I understand the wisdom of this conviction. I also see how ahead of the time these parents were as this was in the ’70s and ’80s before it was as pervasive a problem as it is now.

And then there are the radical bumper stickers I remember from my ’90s college days: Kill Your Television!

Good advice for us all, at any time.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be reached through her website, stephaniehaines.com.

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Noelle Steele is editor of the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3232 or nsteele@greenfieldreporter.com.