I used to spend hours in front of a screen: on my laptop, I did homework and taught myself Russian. At work, I processed electronic invoices and perused the Internet during downtime. When I got home, I spent two to three hours a night watching prime time TV with my mom. My total hours in front of a screen nearly equaled the number of hours I was awake.
It’s no coincidence that I was unhappy.
Do Your Research
Screen time overuse and depression are fast friends — but don’t take my word for it. Try Google searches like “Internet use linked to depression.” Better yet, head to the library and consult a peer-reviewed journal (they’re much more reliable than the Internet). Either way, sources say TV binges and endless Internet scrolling harm our mental health. So why do we return to these screens? What’s there to like?
Screens distract us. They helped me forget how much I hated my first university. I didn’t put any effort into choosing my college; as a result, I ended up at one that someone else chose for me. Spoiler alert: if someone else makes your decisions, you won’t be happy. I sure wasn’t. And instead of trying to fix the problem, I deflated; I hid behind a screen.
Here’s another spoiler: you can’t run away from your problems. My life became a downward spiral: I hated my circumstances, so I spent more time in front of a screen. The more time I vegged out in front of a screen, the worse I felt.
If you see yourself in what I’m saying, or maybe someone you know, here’s my suggestion: Cut your screen time. Watch two hours of TV instead of four; log into social media every other day versus every day. With that extra time, go outside. Create or build something. Visit a friend. Exercise. Pursue your passion. There’s time in the day if you’re willing to make it.
Better yet, quit TV (or Netflix) entirely; at least the Internet has the potential to teach you something. Staring at the boob tube is passive entertainment. You put nothing in and get nothing out. I spent my freshman year feeling numb, distracting myself from my problems instead of fixing them. I was a zombie.
At my second university, I dropped from 12 hours of screen time a day to about three– and two of those hours were with friends. We watched movies together, joking and creating our own endings and picking favorite and least favorite characters; we made movie-watching a social event. Was it the healthiest way to spend our time? Probably not, but it was worlds better than where I came from.
Now, in 2016, I only watch TV with other people. Quitting TV opened up hours of free time to pursue things that are important to me, like writing, ballroom dancing, and reading. I don’t miss the shows I used to watch — or the endless consumerism in commercials. I’m much more productive now, and much happier, too.
Have you or someone you know quit TV or reduced your screen time? What were your experiences?