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December 26, 2019 11:00 pm

Why Do 88% of Americans Use a Second Screen While Watching TV?

According to TV metrics company Nielsen, a whopping 88% of Americans stare at screens while staring at other screens. Nate Anderson from Ars Technica discovered the stat while combing through Mary Meeker's annual "Internet Trends" report: My attitude, when watching TV, is that a show you pay attention to precludes the use of phone or laptop; if you're using another screen, you're not actually watching the show. Pick better shows to watch, people! And then watch them! [...] I got to thinking about the ways in which we use television, and not all of them involve watching dark prestige dramas with 80+ Metacritic scores. Perhaps you're watching (ugh) live TV, either because you are a masochist or you love sports. (If you are watching baseball, perhaps it's both!) Picking up a smartphone during commercial breaks is arguably better than being bombarded with the consumerism of late-stage capitalism. Say you use your TV not as a way to consume compelling crafted content, but as background noise that helps you relax. (I highly recommend Sunday afternoon golf for this purpose.) Tooling around on a laptop while the TV plays in the background is now not quite so odd. Or perhaps you watch TV simply as a way to kill time. Perhaps you're in pain, or recovering from illness, or simply bored out of your mind. The goal is not necessarily to direct your full and undivided attention to the screen; it is to get through the day until something better comes along. Using a second screen here, too, makes sense. [...] Still, I can't shake the feeling that the majority of time spent using one digital device while another displays video content nearby is low-quality time, where we aren't really paying attention to what's on either screen and so are using the planet's resources, cluttering our lives with extra noise, and reinforcing our slavish devotions to screens for little to no benefit... Do you ever find yourself browsing your phone while watching TV? If so, can it be explained by one of Nate's reasonings?

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