Screen Withdrawal

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On at least one occasion, though probably more, I have written that I live in Chiba, and that’s the place where the novel Neuromancer begins, “The sky was the color of a tv tuned to a dead channel.” Clearly, I like the reference; I am a scifi fan. I also like how expressive the comment is. It evokes a couple of associations, technology, emptiness, dark, grey, visual noise.

I have, like most of us, a long and sordid past with the screens I use. Most of the time, I don’t think about my screens. Other times, I think about it a bit more. The fact that I don’t think about it should scare me a bit. Watching my kids and their screens, I see their addictions. I see them enter the trance-like state that we all enter. It’s easy to see in others. But in yourself, it is another matter. I have had many such addictions over the years, some screen, some not. I have turned to games, movies, TV, people. I mean addiction metaphorically, not physically, though certainly emotionally. It feels pretty real to me. Sometimes the addiction has gotten bad. I have even hurt some friends when I needed to stop my addiction in the past (sorry guys, it was all me, really).

I am at that point again. I find myself with strong desires to do things. The specifics of those things are not important. But I find myself going to my screens instead of doing the things I know I want to do. I sit down to get something done, but watch an episode of Daredevil from Netflix (really good by the way, you should watch it if you have the emotional wherewithal to pull yourself back to the real world again afterwards). One episode leads to another, which leads to four, which leads to the whole damned season. And I still haven’t done the thing I so wanted to do.

I recently re-installed Sid Meiers Civilization V with a couple of expansions. Wait, I should set this up a bit…

I have a pretty set sleep cycle. I go to bed at nine thirty, read, sleep at ten or ten thirty, wake up between five thirty and six. I have done this for the last couple of years. It is more than a habit, it is a cycle. I need my eight hours, I ensure I get it. When I don’t get my eight, I’m unfocused and tired. Now, back to my Civ V story. I reinstalled it two nights ago. If you’ve played it you know how addictive it is. It is turn based. And the developers know just how to make it addictive. At some quit screens, there is even a message that asks if you really want to quit, with two choices. Instead of “yes” and “no” the “no” options is “wait… just one more turn.”

I L O V E the Civ series. I’ve played them since they first came out on DOS.

I finally went to bed last night at 2 am.

“wait… just one more turn.”

Today I’m unfocused and tired. And yet, I find myself wanting to play some more. Even now. Right at this moment, I want to play… just one more turn. Instead, I have decided – publicly – to give up 1) TV and movies, and 2) video games, for a month. Hopefully, this will lead to more than just a month. We shall see. I have already uninstalled Civ V – after only two days back on the ol’ PC. I have deleted all my video files. I plan to only interact with my screens when and where I choose. And I will not give them the opportunity to distract me.

More on this in a month.


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