While aimlessly scrolling through Facebook this weekend, I came across this extremely powerful advertisement by Nike. The use of bold white text on a black background, Siri’s voice, and the inclusion of data all combine to yield a highly effective message. It definitely hit home for me – as it was noon on a Sunday and I had yet to get out of bed and do anything productive with my day. And it made me think – how much of my time do I spend on the internet? What are the implications of my actions?
And then, on a much broader scale, I’ve been asking many questions about museums and technology – such as why, how, and what. But I’ve never really asked the question of should. Should museums be investing in the digital? Social media? Websites and tech? What are the implications (potentially negative) of museum sites and digital experiences that encourage an already tech-obsessed society to delve even deeper into their screens?
Before getting to these big questions – a little bit of fun. I was inspired by this Buzzfeed video to actually see what my personal phone usage was on a daily basis. I downloaded the Moment app which will track how much time I spend on my phone and different applications. Before the process here is my prediction: 2 hours per day, with the majority of my time spent on iMessage and Instagram.
The results: I was actually pretty spot-on. I calculated that I spent an average of 1 hour and 55 minutes on my phone per day! I averaged 75 “pick-ups” per day, and spent the majority of my time on Instagram, IMessage, and WatchESPN. Though this is what I predicted, it still is a major wake-up call for me, and I am going to try and adjust my habits. This is just the amount of time I spend on my phone and it doesn’t include time spent watching television or on the computer – which I’m sure would be a lot more. Overall, it was a great exercise, and the Moment app was fairly easy to use. I would recommend trying it for anyone attached to their phones!
There have been many studies on the potentially harmful effects of too much screen time. It has been linked to an increased risk for things like weight gain, eye strain, cardiovascular disease, and disrupted sleep cycles. For children, too much screen time could have significant effects on memory, and even reduce their ability to recognize human emotions. Not to mention that when you’re glued to a screen, you’re probably (for the majority of the time) inside, sitting down, not moving or getting any physical activity. There are also those intangible effects – like that gross feeling you have after you realize you’ve been on Instagram for an hour and a half, the utter panic of remembering that while you were Pinterest-ing for hours you forgot to do your homework, or that terrible “you’re not good enough” feeling you get after spending time on Facebook seeing all of the engagements, babies, and promotions.
There are also, of course, lots of great things that happen on the internet. Feel-good posts about cats, people rallying behind a cause, and connecting with long-lost friends to name a few. But there is a delicate balance – how much tech is too much?
This is an important topic to discuss, especially when it comes to museums. Many museums today are focusing more and more on technology – they are using digital storytelling, creating interactive websites, and engaging with visitors on social media. Because this is where people are spending their time (an average of between 90 minutes to 4.7 hours per day) museums are right to invest in technology. However, it is important for museums to take time before beginning major digital projects to reflect on how they want visitors to interact, what visitors will take away, and how much time visitors will be spending on screens vs. interacting with actual art and objects. Museums cannot control how much time visitors spend on their screens, but they can incorporate technology wisely, create both digital and analog experiences, and become leaders of discussion about technology and its modern day implications.