My husband, lets call him N, is what you could call a screen junkie. It’s a deadly affliction that can damage a few grey cells, affect eyesight and even break up a marriage. He has this perpetual need to stare at some screen all the time; TV, a phone, a laptop, anything. A recent study concluded that the average youngster in India spends 10 hours of his day looking at a screen. They must have been talking about N.
It is 8 am. The phone buzzes, signaling a flurry of incoming emails. With eyes half shut and crouched in the darkest corner of the sofa with a teacup precariously hanging down the crook of his hand, N sifts through the mails, mentally planning the day (that’s what he claims). While sitting on the pot, it’s Facebook time. In between, he attends to a few Whatsapp pings.
In office, it’s another painful eight hours of drubbing away on the laptop, multitasking with several tabs open. Back home at 6 pm, he flops on the recliner and starts playing FIFA on the XBox, his eyes transfixed on the animated Arsenal men. And as he ‘de-stresses’, I sit beside him and talk to his right ear, recounting my day with a motley of news, gossip and grievances.
When we first moved into our apartment, all the furniture was arranged against the wall, pointing at the TV, as if to say that the guests who come in should also watch the on-going cricket match with minimal interruption. I suggested a conversation pit, to arrange the furniture in right angles so that we wouldn’t have to lean forward while talking or talk to each other’s side profiles. N finally gave in, but not without making some disparaging comments about women having to talk all the time instead of just chilling. Our conversations are now punctuated by sitcom laugh tracks and Arnab hollers through our dinners. Sometimes we call it a day by binge-watching some television show on the laptop. The iPad is another story. Everyone I know strongly condemns children using it until they have one of their own. With parenthood, the iPad transforms into this magical device that gives one some ‘me time’ while the child is busy learning to make cupcakes with Barbie.
Stuck at the traffic signal or waiting in a queue? We fish out our smartphones and start reading an inane forward on a chat group or analyse our friend’s Photoshopped display picture. What starts off with checking one trailer on YouTube slowly cascades into a chain of random videos. Time flies by. The other day, at the Endoscopy Centre, while I was busy choking on the tube that was lunging into my stomach, the doctor was hell bent on giving me a tour of my insides on the TV monitor to my side. A screen to the rescue once again. “Can you see your heart pulsating against your esophagus?” he said. My dying wish was not witness my own heart stop beating.
Until the smartphone happened, I loved sitting in airports for hours, for the sheer people watching potential it offers — the whole gamut of human idiosyncrasies and relationships on display. But these days, I catch the young engrossed in swiping right and left on Tinder profiles much like a videogame while married souls like me kill time by checking what’s for dinner on the FreshMenu app.
Whatever happened to good old reading and staring into empty space? Spa rituals and suryanamaskars must make way for the more important digital detox. When I did suggest it to N the other day, he looked at me flummoxed as though I was accusing him of infidelity.
It’s unfortunate that for most of us work is on the laptop. For instance, this column isn’t going to write itself. But have you caught up on this new Game of Thrones fan theory that is doing the rounds? Maybe I will it read now, while my brain gently warms up.