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How Much of Our Life Are We Living Through a Screen?

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I went to see a friend the other day who announced that her baby's first word was iPad.

So used to playing with it and watching it whilst he eats, it has become a fundamental part of his lexicon.

Not Ma, Dada or even car. Not only a gadget, but also a brand.

There's also the recent video of a toddler trying to open a magazine using the same finger movement used for touch screens.

We live in a commercially driven, high tech world which has revolutionised our life.

Homework is richer through web search. Time is saved through Siri. People are connected across continents through Skype.

But to what extent does this mean we are now virtually living?

Everything seems to happen now through a device. You can't just live any more. You need to Facebook-live, Twitter-live or Foursquare-live.

Its not enought to have a great personal moment you then need to share it. Or text it. Or tweet it. Or film it.

The digi-bug is everywhere.

At Rihanna's concert in Paris, Bercy was flooded with mobile flashes. The picture of any concert on a phone is grainy. The singer is usually a blob in the background. All this filming meant that everyone seemed somehow detached from the event and the atmosphere seemed more subdued. Its hard to strut your stuff surrounded by people standing still, one arm in air video-ing.

Socialising also has to have a digital component. Someone has to become Mayor of the bar or cafe on Foursquare before drinks can be ordered.

Or at dinner someone raises an interesting subject - like a recent party - and they then promptly whisk a phone out to find a funny photo or a video. For me it cuts the flow of the conversation and the human connection. Surely the spoken word is more powerful at evoking a memory than a micro-photo.

The worst scenario is when we are so attached to our devices we can't function. How many of you have crumbled upon losing a phone? Or were at a total loss when the BlackBerry blackout happenend?

I used to sleep with my device when I worked in the corporate world in order to be constantly in touch with LaLa Land. It was slavery. The little red light at 4am would wake me up with a sudden jolt as if it was a police car siren.

I probably sound like a fuddy duddy, but in my day as a kid the weekend was full of different stuff, some outside in fresh air, some inside around Monopoly. The TV was there at tea time but only as part of our life, not the main focus. Playing, exploring and imagining was more fun.

Now it seems kids can only do those things through a screen. Sport with Wii Fit, Trivial Pursuit on the iPad, cops and robbers have become video games and playdates are Facebook chats.

In a recent book called the TV Lobotomy, kids who watch loads of TV and little TV were asked to draw pictures. Needless to say that the telly addicts drew basic stick men and the non TV children did full and detailed illustrations. Clearly too much screen time is an imagination inhibitor.

It has also been proved that social networks actually make socialising and dating more difficult for teens. They are so used to interacting from the safe confines of their bedroom and PC that they can't handle intimate chat.

I guess this is also why the youngsters I know are sullen at the dinner table, grunting instead of talking and more often than not texting under the table. They just aren't used to face to face, live conversation where you need to be spontaneous, rather than considered.

You may be wondering why I'm saying this via a platform like the HuffPo.

It's all about balance. Like anything. If we eat red meat all day we will keel over. The same is true of the digital diet. If we live life too much in the virtual dimension we will lose our connection with the human one. Like a flower that wilts in the dark.

We should of course enjoy its huge and exciting opportunities - the ones which benefit mankind and our lives.

Greater sharing of information to empower us and our countries, deeper knowledge to help us live richer lives - especially in areas of science, medicine and business that boom because technology speeds it up.

But man needs to be in control of the machine and not the other way round.

Otherwise we will end up in a Matrix like world where a virtual reality will start to replace the real one.

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