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Last week, your screen-time was up by 300%

Last week, your screen-time was up by 300%

Posted on 23rd March 2020

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Many of us, if not most, are already working from home.  Things are changing by the day, but I expect that there will be considerably more restrictions on movement very soon.  

The sliver of good news is that the experts tell us that we shall get through this, which I’m sure we will, but it’s clear that a lot more of us are spending much more time at home, in front of our computer screens.

What the vast majority have regarded as the normal ways of working are changing.  For example, Apple is holding its annual developer conference, with thousands of delegates, entirely online. Self-isolation will mean that those live events, performances and meetings that we are so used attending are now going to be viewed through a screen on your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. The remaining elements of our analogue world will become digital, possibly, probably permanently. 

As we schools and workplaces close for the duration, there will be a concomitant, massive rise in screen-time as children and teenagers stay at home.  Those weekly advice messages telling you that you spent 20 minutes more online than in the previous week will seem quaintly outdated as your time in front of a home computer increases from three hours to eleven hours a day.

Of course, many of us are simply transferring our office screen-time to home screen-time.  And because we won’t be able to go out for a lunch in the pub with the team, we’ll be seeking our entertainment online even more than at present. This is already happening in countries worse affected than us at present: two weeks ago Telecom Italia reported a 70% rise in internet traffic, much of it due to online games such as Fortnite, which millions of teenagers consider the closest they can get to hanging out in real life.

Social media use will obviously ramp up dramatically: it will be good to keep in touch with relatives who live a long way away.  Twitter will give us instant updates (if you can stand the extremists of every stamp who loiter there), while Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and even LinkedIn can give us friendly messages and some relief from the surfeit of doom and gloom that currently pervades the media.  It’s good to talk, even if it’s only virtually.

Unfortunately, there is no disguising the fact that losing face-to-face human interaction - the chatter of offices, bars and book clubs - will be a wrench.  Getting accustomed to the new, online alternatives will require us all to communicate and work together online.   For some, the transition will be smooth. New alternative ways of interacting will spring up: the other week, several groups of techies in San Francisco set up video “happy hours.”   Like any other happy hour, the two essential elements of chat and alcohol were present, simply not all gathered in one, potentially virus-spreading, location.

Finally, I am very aware that it’s one thing for a youngish, tech-literate person to be moderately relaxed about the opportunities to watch even more cute cat videos on YouTube, but for the older generation, many of whom don’t even have a computer, this imposed exile in their own homes is going to be difficult. If you can, please do help your neighbours, especially the older ones, to get through, remembering to keep your two metres distance! Eventually, we’ll come out of the other side of this, but the world will then be a different place, with changed working and social practices. 

Michael Phair, Be-IT

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