The Big Mean Screen Machine

Greenjacker tells us the secret to disconnecting from the electronic addiction

Words: Greenjacker

Photography: Warren Draper

I worked a wide variety of jobs before taking the plunge to become one of Doncaster’s first urban farmers (there’s still only a few of us, so pop down to Bentley Urban Farm if you want to be part of the first wave). The one thing each workplace had in common was almost exactly the same early morning conversations.

“Traffic’s a nightmare again.”

“Yeah, I’d be tempted to hop on my bike if it weren’t for the rubbish English weather.”

“Yeah, cold again isn’t it?”

“Freezing. Its like bloomin’ Siberia out there. And the TV said it is going to rain later.”

“Really? Again? I’ll check mi phone… Oh, yeah. It has pictures of rain clouds on my app. Says a 60% chance of showers at 2pm. Can’t wait for my holiday to Spain in six weeks, they get proper weather.”

“Bit hot though?”

“Yeah,”… try your hardest not to picture Peter Kay on reading the next line… “Different heat though, isn’t it?!?”

A lot of Doncopolitan readers will hear conversations like this during their own working day, but how true are such statements? Anyone who spends any real time outside in Doncaster will tell you that weather is rarely truly unbearable. We’ve talked about Doncaster’s favourable micro-climate many times in Doncopolitan. Weather forecasts are rarely local enough to give an accurate picture and most of the time when rain is forecast for the general area the rain clouds actually tend to pass us over, preferring to dump their load on Sheffield or Leeds. Believe it or not, thanks to our geography, we don’t get that many rainy days. Go outside if you don’t believe me, the odds are against you getting wet, and at least you have this copy of Doncopolitan to cover your head if it does happen to rain.

The truth is that most of the people who moan about the weather have left their centrally heated home to drive their heated car to work where they’ll spend the next 8 hours sitting in a heated office. Anyone who walks to work knows that the body will acclimatise within 10 minutes or so. Surprisingly, using your body warms you up! Yes, there are times when we need a little extra help, but, as the Norwegians say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

As for moaning about the traffic, if you’re driving, you are the traffic. To be honest, this inability to recognise our own complicity in the problems we face is hardly surprising. It is a symptom of our growing disconnection from the physical world. It is very hard to connect with anything when we spend our lives peering through screens. Whether it be the windows of our houses, cars or offices, or the screens of our TVs, computers, phones and tablets, we seem to live most of

our lives with a layer of glass between ourselves and the real world. In fact, we are less likely to believe that something is ‘real’ if we haven’t seen it on a screen. Tragically, in this post- truth age, we’re also likely to believe something just because it does appear on a screen.

We have abandoned the vital for the virtual, but it hasn’t even made us happy. Anxiety levels are rising due to lack of ‘likes’ from people who we’ve never even met and we’re made jealous by a constant stream of pictures of people

more beautiful than ourselves in places more wonderful than where we are, even though we know full well that the photos are filtered and that they’re taken at a carefully selected angle which shows the only uncrowded spot on the entire beach and conveniently ignores the nearby toxic waste dump and street beggars. In fact, our rose-tinted screens make it much easier for us to ignore things like pollution, poverty, climate change, extinction and war, even though mobile phone production itself has exasperated many of these problems.

I was unhappy, too, not so very long ago. I had a ‘good’ job and some of the best screens money can buy, but it was never enough. One of my Facebook ‘friends’ was a diving instructor in Dubai who always seemed to be at amazing parties; my life seemed dull and listless in comparison. Why couldn’t I have his perfect life? I was much smarter than him at school. And within weeks of me having the latest smartphone or tablet, something faster, cleverer and shinier would come along. My once powerful phone would become ever more brick-like and embarrassing as I waited for my contract to end. But then I started working the land.

Growing things changes your perspective. Firstly you spend most of your life outdoors, with no barrier between you and the real world. Physically, you begin to feel better. Partly due to the injection of vitamin D, but mainly because you somehow feel expanded as you realise that you are an integral part of the whole; a small aspect of a constantly changing landscape. Because you’re growing things, especially if you’re growing organically, you also focus more on the needs of life, rather than lifestyle. A healthy environment makes healthy plants. You become more observant, more focused on the here and now and you work to Mother Nature’s calendar. We develop an ‘ecological mindset’, which is almost the opposite to the screen mindset. It might be nice to catch up with what my actual friends are doing now and then, but some random photo of a cat or a few extra ‘likes’ ain’t gonna make my tomatoes any sweeter.

I feel physically and mentally healthier for reconnecting with the real world. But don’t take my word for it. Take yourself a ‘Vacation from the Virtual’. This is a bit like a ‘Digital Detox’ with a healthy, tasty bonus. Come off of social media for a month. On day one plant yourself a radish. When you get the urge to check your phone, check your radish instead. After all, the little guy’s life depends on you giving it attention now and then. Watch it develop. Within days of planting the seed you’ll see the first leaves. These will be replaced a week or so later by the ‘true leaves’. Photographing this development will kerb your urge to photograph yourself for your feed and, talking of ‘feed’, by the end of the month you will have a delicious radish. Which is more than Facebook ever gave you.

If you get good at growing radishes, come down and grow more stuff at Bentley Urban Farm. We guarantee not to have good Wi-Fi.

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