When I was a child growing up in the mid-1970s in England, there was a TV show called, ‘Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?’. No, I am not joking. This was a BBC show that ran in various formats from August 1973 to April 1995 — a whopping twenty-two years. And I loved it. It was presented by children for children. There was a lot of engagement from the young viewers who shared their own ideas, or games, or creative craft pursuits by writing a letter and sending it in with instructions, pictures, ideas, etc. I have a vague memory that something of mine was on the show. I can’t recall it now but I still remember the thrill of my name and town being shown on the screen. I felt famous.
Today, it would all be done instantaneously on Facebook Groups or by scrolling through thousands of ‘Life Hacks’ on YouTube. There was no instant gratification back then. We learned to participate and wait. We learned to be patient for our show’s time-slot to arrive. We learned that as there simply wasn’t time for every letter to be read out, that disappointment was inevitable. We learned to rise and fall without too many bruises. It was also my first introduction to irony. How could I simultaneously watch the show and switch it off for more creative pursuits? Oh, the conundrum for a small child’s mind!
This irony was permissible. There were few channels and few children’s dedicated programmes. We were encouraged to watch this particular show for creative and educational purposes. Other than our few hours a week of TV screen time, we were up trees, playing hide and seek, playing with balls, skates, dolls, action men and exploring the great outdoors. We were engaging with each other in a world fuelled by our collective imagination.
Television was considered both informative as well as entertaining. It was considered to support society by giving wide cultural experiences to all the UK’s diverse demographics. The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC1 and BBC2, dominated the households with news, current affairs, art and education with some purely entertainment shows. ITV (Independent Television), the third channel, was set up in healthy competition with the BBC. ITV was far more inclusive and broad in its entertainment output. And that was it. And it seemed a lot. It seemed enough. To me, the woods and parks held a greater appeal. Meeting friends for an exploratory romp was far more exciting than being stuck indoors in front of the TV. The movie screen, the car front windscreen, a train window(screen) and the occasional television screen was all we had and all we needed.
The irony is stamped right here. You’re reading this article on a screen. Perhaps phone, tablet or computer. This article reached you via email or a social media post or advertisement. Perhaps an Instagram post caught your eye and you clicked through to find this written contradiction. We are fully aware of this trap. We want you to switch off your screens and simply be … be natural, be quiet, be you, be kind, be heart-centred, be connected, be empathic, be Love.
How do we moderate our daily use of digital immersion? How do we both redefine and adhere to a healthy balance of human interaction and digital domination? How do we take the good from technology and how do we discern what’s bad? How do we, the trusting and somewhat naive user, dodge the pernicious algorithm bullets when we can’t even see them?
I don’t want to sound like a regressive Luddite from the early 1800s furtively vandalising machines in protest for a more natural way of being. Or do I? The Luddites wanted to address how the machines were taking jobs, replacing manual labour, making the rich richer and the poor more and more desperate. It felt like an assault on the working classes. It felt like a societal ‘upgrade’ with clear winners and losers.
The Social Dilemma
I have just watched the Netflix doco/drama, The Social Dilemma. It is, to say the least, extremely thought-provoking. At worst, it’s deeply disturbing. We live in a world of stats and data and analysis. Studies can show a clear picture of societal correlations – we can map social impacts like never before. Social media’s impact has significantly altered every aspect of life on Earth. It’s not all bad. But the bad is an unregulated self-propelling monster. The consequences are becoming all too scarily apparent.
I urge you to watch the doco/drama and draw your own conclusions. I have drawn mine and I want to make some significant changes.
- Much less screen time.
- More time in nature.
- More leaving the house without any wifi devices.
- Dig out my old watch for when I need to know the time.
- Buy more books and visit libraries.
- Listen more, ask more questions, and re-learn the art of kind conversation.
- Write letters or postcodes to friends and loved ones.
- Volunteer my time and energy for those in need.
On the way home from my walk this morning with my two dogs I was ruminating how to end this article. What did I want to say? I then met a friend and her eight-year-old daughter, Willow.
Willow has no screen time and is schooled in the Steiner tradition – learning through creativity, play and healthy social class collaboration. She was delighted to share her new poem with me.
And right there, listening to her, to her poem and life giving me gifts and answers, I knew this is how I would end this article. With her poem of Spring, nature, creativity, confidence, optimism and the vibrant YES that this digital, screen-free child offered so joyously and generously. I asked her if it would be okay for her poem to go in the UPLIFT Connect magazine on the internet. I could see her delight in seeing her name on the screen. Perhaps she would feel as I did all those years ago … just a little bit famous.
‘Spring’ by Willow
Spring is here, I am one
Standing under the glowing sun
What I give and what I receive
Very near the buzzing bees.
Thunder rumbles, lightning flashes
the storm is over, all is calm
The trees are swaying
The birds are singing.
Seasons pass like a light
Blazing through the cold, dark night
Spring was here, spring is done
I am still under the glowing sun.
How are you feeling about this social dilemma – have we become overly dependent on social media and devices? What do you do to minimise screen time and what is your antidote for digital overdosing? Did you see The Social Dilemma on Netflix? We’d love to know your thoughts and look for kind solutions for a truer, more loving and authentic way of being.
When you’ve commented … take your shoes off and make contact with the Earth.
All our love to you
Paul and Team UPLIFT
Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a couple of unrelated data, nonetheless truly worth taking a look, whoa did one particular study about Mid East has got a lot more problerms too.
My husband and I watched that documentary together and deleted all social media accounts that day. It was alarming to us! We already knew that we weren’t getting anything good out of social media but watching that pushed us over the edge.
We were children of the 90’s so we had a somewhat similar experience of actually having to wait for our show to come on and then hoping our dads weren’t planning to watch a sporting event at the same time! Haha. We played outside and read books and all that. We have 3 young boys ages 2,4 and 6 and we are trying really hard to help them create healthy boundaries. It’s astonishing how even at that young age they are SO drawn to screens.
Everyone has to find their balance and what is right and good for them an d their families. I’m glad that it’s at least a conversation that’s happening. It will be interesting to see what kind of world my grandkids will inherit!
All the best to you all!
I grew up as your article mentioned, outside until the street lights came on in our neighborhood. We knew all the neighbors and we all watched our for each other. My parents limited our tv . However, I have always been intrigued by technology and stay pretty current. I have all the social media apps and conduct most of my business online. I recently watched the Social Dilemma and saw myself and now I’m struggling with how to break the cycle I’m in. I think technology has its place but I want to be in control instead of it controlling me. My plan is to start small and schedule disconnect time. I want to be present! Wish me luck…
This is the old bull shit of elder people, who don`t go with our time!!
I am still curious about young people, who go their own way. Who are stimulated in their power. Who can open up as they want. Let them be free!!
Thank you Paul. I am a child of the 60’s and we too played outside for hours and hours. Nature was a huge part of my life then and still is! I have been discussing with friends disengaging from social media altogether to return to some sense of peace and calm. I have not watched TV for years but find I need to now stop looking at the phone and IPAD. The social dilemma is a movie everyone should see and have encouraged everyone of my friends to watch it. Perhaps this awakening can usher in a new paradigm of living for the planet and all beings!
I banned the tv 12 years ago and don’t miss it at all. The programs are so stupid and not informative. The other point is the computer/laptop. There is so much i want to learn and discover that it’s a trap for me. Two weeks ago i was on a motorcycle trip for 3 weeks to Corsica and re-discover the freedom of not having to know or see anything. It’s oké to be present and taking time to see the births and the beauty of the treess. Be present is the answer, but its very difficult for me to stick to that. The world is changing so rapidly that i feel the urge to kknow the strategy behind this. Maybe i better not knowing it , and feed my consieusness with happines. That’s one thing i loose when i see to much of the docu on the internet.
I quit watching TV a year ago, only watching an occasional movie or Frankie and Grace. I found peace in biking, hiking, cooking and creativity. Nature is a great way to feed the soul.
I am a child of the mid-70’s and grew up outside as well. I remember relishing Saturday mornings, the one day a week I had the TV to myself for shows made for me. Its strange to have grown with technology and remember fighting putting a PC in my house, going to online banking, texting…and now having to actually delete social media from my phone because of the zombie zone. I agree with Paul and the sentiment of The Social Dilemma as it was what made me finally delete all social media. I’m ready to start fresh and reconnect to all the sensations LIFE has to offer.
Hi. Yes, it is deeply disturbing for me to see how social media has taken over from real life. I live in Spain, a lovely country but totally co-dependent and addicted. To any fashion! Now, it’s social media. You have to dodge people on the street with their heads buried in a Smart ‘phone. Not to mention the number of car accidents caused by distraction through answering messages. I leave my ancient mobile ‘phone at home whenever I can when I go out. I limit my computer use (now) to an hour or hour and a half each afternoon. Sometimes I don’t even bother to go online unless I’m expecting an e-mail (yes, those old-fashoined things!) But…………….I am 71 years old so it doesn’t really matter. I’m not the future, I’m the past. I lived exactly as Paul describes. In fact, I grew up in the 50’s so even less technology.
I appreciate the usefulness of mobile ‘phones, specially for people who live alone. But I feel it has all gone too far. It should have stopped around 20 years ago. Just enough technology then but not too much. I feel sad for young teenagers whose lives and happiness depend on how many “likes” they receive. There is so much out in the real world. Just go out, look around you and marvel.
Great article. I’m a mom and a grandma and great grand ma. I’d like to send this article to all my office springs. Thanks. Sooo much
Hi Paul, Thank you for your article. In January, I started writing a 50-word / character poem a day about my resolution to stay away from social media. It’s taken some surprising detours since the dawn of the pandemic and documents my journey of refinding myself and the way I want to live the rest of my life. I’m happier and feel more creative and connected without social media, but grateful for technology in other ways, like Zoom, which is enabling me to have live conversations with like-minded others it would be impossible to see in person right now. Best wishes, Gemma
Feeling grateful …paying attention to the sequence of events….watched the social dilemma last night –
Read a very meaningful article on the history of the African / American experience in this country In Trycicle this morning prior to reading this one in uplift ….
Learned from all three & feel enriched & empowered to
not only share what I learned but to be more proactive in being actively engaged in sharing loving kindness with all….
This is so true, to much media before our eyes Instead of Gods wonderful creations. No o e communicates at the table for dinner they on their phones, walking and texting, no family time, just tv, computer time. We have lost connection with God and each other.
Thanks Paul – it’s certainly a modern challenge for all of us. As a parent of teens, I’m keen to find the right balance for my children as well as for my own wellbeing. Happily, I sense there’s a definite trend of more people looking for traditional connections and activities. I’ve certainly seen an increase in my clients wanting more creativity in their lives, as well as a gentler, slower pace.
So, I’m hopeful that we’re all moving towards a happier and healthier life/tech balance. Thank you for your thought-provoking contribution to that.
BTW As a child of the 70s, I used to watch Why Don’t You, too! 🙂