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I Scare Myself

I read a statistic in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal that surprised me: “U.S. households had their TV sets on for 8 hours and 44 minutes daily during the 2006-2007 television season, according to Nielsen Media Research.”

I thought about how that could be possible. Start with 524 minutes. Let’s say you wake up at 7am and have the morning news on for an hour and a half before you go to work. Minus 90 minutes = 434. Come home at 6pm and immediately turn on the tube. You’d have to stay up until 1:14am to use the remaining 7 hours and 14 minutes. Or I suppose if you have children who come home from school at 3:30, the family would only have to stay up until 10:44pm watching TV. Or if you watch for 2-1/2 hours in the morning, you could possibly turn it off for an hour during dinner. Either way, IT’S A F*CKLOAD OF TV!

I’m not even home 8 hours and 44 minutes a day, but when I am home the TV is usually on. I live alone and I like the background noise. In fact I’m sitting on the couch right now, computer on my lap and TV on — but paused, because I wanted to concentrate on what I’m writing. So I’m not just facing one screen, I’m facing two.

Of the 18 or so hours that I’m awake every day, I spend the vast majority of my time looking at screens of various sizes; in size order: a BlackBerry, a computer screen, a TV screen, a projection screen, a movie screen (okay, so I don’t do this every day). I’m on the computer for about an hour every morning before I go to work. Then I’m at work for about 8 hours. Subtract an average of 2 hours of meetings a day in which we’re NOT looking at a projection, and I’m at 7 hours. Leave work, meet a friend for dinner or a drink, do a few errands and I probably give myself about a 3-hour reprieve. Of course, to and from wherever I’m going I’m usually on the BB. Add 30 minutes for that. Back at home I’m on the couch with my two-screen setup. I’ve gotta spend at least 5 hours a night on the machine, doing freelance work, following up with personal email, reading the blogs and chatting with friends. That’s a total of 12 and half hours a day staring straight ahead at a single point. I’m lucky that I have perfect vision, but at the rate I’m going it surely won’t last — and neither will my sanity, if you can even argue I still have it.

How many hours a day do you spend looking at electronic devices? What kind of negative effects do you feel it’s had on your life?

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