Are we slaves to our screens?

I’m thinking of pitching a new business idea to Enterprise Ireland. Millions, it could make. Millions, I tell you! It’s franchisable, scaleable, international, all those things they love throwing money from the National Pension Reserve Fund at. The best bit is I don’t need to learn any new skills, and in order to become one of my franchisees, neither do you.

My innovative, entrepreneurial innovation (I’m practicing my pitch) is based on a survey I found yesterday showing that the majority of people “crave” a simpler life. The product is currently in beta testing. As in, I am trying it out on myself first before inflicting it on my, er, “simplicity” craving clientele.

I haven’t thought of a name for it yet. Perhaps ‘MobileMammy’. Or ‘ScreenSaver’. Actually that’s catchy. We’ll go with ScreenSaver.

Because the reason we are all craving a simpler life is screens. We’re surrounded by them. And it’s starting to get to us. Almost two-thirds of us, according to the latest Ipsos MORI Global Trends Report, agree that we are “constantly” looking at screens these days. We believe life would be better if it was simpler, ie screen-free.

The figure actually struck me as a bit low, but of course it didn’t take into account the fact that most of us are not only looking at one screen, but at two. As I type this, there are two computer screens and a mobile phone open in front of me. When I go home later, I will probably throw on the TV – watching it is a different matter – and spend the evening on various social networking sites on another screen, either my phone or tablet.

And it seems I am far from alone. Even my mother usually watches TV, phone in hand, these days, so that she can tweet something amusing to her increasing number of followers, while sleep-related problems are increasing due to the presence of artificial light in our bedrooms.

The survey had more than 16,000 participants in 20 countries. It exposed a feeling of unease caused by modern technology like smartphones and ipads – 77 per cent of us believe the world is “changing too fast”, with 55 per cent wishing they could just slow things down a bit.

A work colleague told me the other day he is thrilled to be going swimming regularly, because it means an hour away from the phone. If he was talking about drink that way he’d be carted off to John of Gods.

The latest game to prevent restaurant screentime – all the phones on the table at the beginning of a meal, and the first to pick up paying for the meal – is a clear sign that most of us are addicted. Because if you would actually lose money in order for a glance at the screen, it’s safe to say there’s a problem.

Which means there is money to be made. I really think I’m on a winner with this business idea. ScreenSaver will be much cheaper than rehab.

Now, it might cost you a bit in extra food. And you’ll have to give me a bed. Personalisation is a big buzz word these days and this really is the most personal service you will ever receive.

You see, the only way to do it is cold turkey. It’s quite simple. I’m going to come and live with my clients and take their phones off them. Every time you, groggily, turn your head on the pillow and reach, bleary eyed, for your iphone, in the morning, I’ll be there. Taking it out of your hand.

When you get home and sit on the couch, TV on, ipad in hand and phone in pocket, I’ll be there. To switch off the TV and remove the other two offending items from your grasp.

ScreenSaver. It’s a winner.

Published in The Herald.


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