Too many screens?


At least these screens were used at a recent photo conference — in a room filled with other people!


By Caitlin Kelly

And yet, here we are again!

A recent New York Times piece on how the wealthy eschew screen time while the rest of us poor suckers spend all our time on them:

Life for anyone but the very rich — the physical experience of learning, living and dying — is increasingly mediated by screens.

Not only are screens themselves cheap to make, but they also make things cheaper. Any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs. And any activity that can happen on a screen becomes cheaper. The texture of life, the tactile experience, is becoming smooth glass.

Which is a terrible paradox.


Without a screen, your phone or computer, I couldn’t be communicating right now with you and with readers arriving at this blog (!) from the most unlikely of places — New Zealand, Nepal, Romania, Zimbabwe, VietNam, Yemen, South Africa.

Without a screen, I wouldn’t be earning our monthly living costs by reading on-line, setting up interviews by email then writing on a laptop and hitting send.

Without a screen, I couldn’t use Skype to chat with friends, and coaching fellow writers and doing PR strategy, with those living outside my town.


And yet…I get lonely and bored if all my interactions are thus mediated.

I get out into nature.

I regularly meet friends for a meal or a coffee.

We throw dinner parties.

Church, occasionally.

A new-to-me weekly meditation group of women.




I host an annual women’s tea party, using an early 19th. century tea-set.

I go to the gym at least three times a week, as much to be social in spin class and afterward as to exercise.


Here’s a new book I’m eager to read, written by Mark Boyle,  a British man who has gone back to living alone an 18th century rural life there since 2016, eschewing all technology.

Here’s a recent piece by him in The Guardian:


This way of life is often described as “the simple life”. Looking at it head-on, it’s far from simple. This life is actually quite complex, made up of a thousand small, simple things. By comparison, my old urban life was quite simple, made up of a thousand small, complex things. I found industrial life too simple, and thus repetitive and boring. With all of its apps, switches, electronic entertainment, power tools, websites, devices, comforts and conveniences, there was almost nothing left for me to do for myself, except that one thing that earned me the cash to buy my other needs and wants. So as Kirkpatrick Sale once wrote in Human Scale, my wish became “to complexify, not simplify”.



How about you?

Are you trying to lessen your screen time these days?

13 thoughts on “Too many screens?

  1. first off, let me say that I love your annual tea party and your meditation group. both wining experiences in my book. yes, I do worry that screens have become too important in my life, and I try to take a purposeful step-away every so often, just for peace of mind. I know that it is also important to make a point of enjoy non-screen experiences, such as the outdoors, a cultural happening, travel, or human face to face interaction. it’s finding the balance that’s the trick, though I have found that with age, it is easier to choose to spend my time doing what is important to me and makes me feel my best self.

    1. Thanks!

      The meditation group started in Lent at our church — which has always been a tough place for me to make new friends. We also do talk through issues there and it’s creating some good new bonds.

  2. Heide

    Great observations about how our screen time can be a double-edged sword, Caitlin. In the past year I’ve quit Facebook and stopped bringing my phone to bed, and the difference has been profound. I haven’t reclaimed as much time as I would have hoped, but I do feel much more focused — because now I don’t stare at a screen unless there’s a specific purpose. I feel lucky to have realized that my attention is a precious commodity.

      1. Heide

        Indeed. I’ve cut way back on the number of blogs I follow too, but yours is always well worth reading.

  3. Like you, I work from a computer and the internet has brought me a lot of very real friends. But, I like to step away from the devices and have time doing other things. my mobile phone often stays home when I go out because often I don’t want anyone to be able to get in touch with me about anything.

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