Thank you, screens

We spend a lot of time decrying the toxic effects of our screens and devices. And not without good reason: our digital fixations often pull us out of the here and now and warp our bodies’ and minds’ normal, healthy cycles. Deep down, we yearn for a sense of sustained peace and satisfaction in our lives, but our screens distract and cloud us with the allure of instant gratification.

I certainly share the concern. I see the part of me that habitually reaches for my phone in any “dull” or difficult moment. I aspire to spend more of my time simply being with myself in the present moment and letting that be enough.

But I also can’t help but feel that our discourse on this dynamic has itself become somewhat toxic. There are valid concerns, for sure. But it also feels like we’ve lost sight of what incredible opportunities our screens and devices offer us: to access new ideas and art from around the world, to build an audience for our own creations and offerings, to stay connected with loved ones half a world away, to find “our people” amidst geographic isolation. It’s modern-day magic. Our screens open our lives to near-limitless possibility and opportunity.

It’s odd to me how seldom we actually just stop and acknowledge this explicitly and unapologetically.

I imagine what our ancestors might think if they could see us. They’d almost certainly have a lot to say about the wisdom of “boredom” and presence. They’d probably be confused by how we live much of our lives. But at the same time, I can’t help but think they’d also be rolling their eyes at us everytime we go to criticize our screen time. Here we are with access to such incredible, jaw-dropping magic. Just a minute or two with one of our devices would for them be the experience of a lifetime. And yet here we are, seemingly condemning and shaming ourselves for giving into their exceedingly understandable allure.

I’m not suggesting we stop reflecting on how we are misusing our screens. There is something real and important worth reckoning with there.

But, if peace and satisfaction are truly what we are after, perhaps simple gratitude is our best path there.

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