Back in 2009, life was grim. My mom began printing out “screen time coupons” to limit my use of the TV and computer. To have electronics and not be able to use them after a hard day of elementary school? How dare she! At nine years old, I thought nothing of the potential consequences that I would face in a decade, once technology and patterns of media consumption changed. Instead, I chose to be angry at my mother and her efforts to “keep [my] brain from turning into mush.”
I’m happy to report that my tastes have matured since Webkinz and Cool Math Games, but alas, my penchant for the online world has not. Sure enough, having ignored my mom’s warnings while growing up, the gratification I once derived from playing computer games has developed into a dependence on the internet for everything: crafting Instagram captions, compulsively refreshing my email, studying from typed notes, texting relatives, clicking every Apple News push notification…
Now, the real topic of conversation should be the news industry. Just as parents have a responsibility to steer their kids away from “brain-mushing” technology, the press is expected to protect people’s impressionable subconscious from misinformation by delivering factual and objective coverage. Unfortunately, news outlets (and parents) everywhere have failed thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the smartphone, always in-hand. Especially in recent years, “fake news” has become one of the most intensely debated socio-political topics in the United States. Furthermore, with the rise of political partisanship, people have entered one-sided “echo chambers” on Facebook, Google, etc. without even realizing it. Anything we see online now has the potential to become “that thing we saw that one time.”
Spending less time watching TV in the fourth grade might not have kept me safe from echo chambers. However, I could have been more mindful before diving in headfirst to become a Daily Mail dependent. As soon as I no longer had to ration my “screen time,” I consumed just as much media as the next person, unaware of what I was reading and doing until the integrity of online publications came into question around the 2016 election. While I understand my mom’s intentions today, I allowed the allure of technology and the internet to cloud my judgment and turn into a multi-faceted dependency.
Be careful out there!