Home Opinion and Features A ‘squitch’ in time …

A ‘squitch’ in time …

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GREY MUTTER: Face it, these days we spend way too much time gadget gazing, and I have discovered in a very scary way that screen staring is not good, not at all!

Picture: Paul Diaconu from Pixabay

BACK when I was younger, we had social structures in place – one in particular – that would prevent those who had committed an injustice from being too confident that they would get away with being nasty to nice folk.

This particular social convention was called the “squitch” … Ahhh, the wonderful, field-levelling, societal readjusting “squitch”; just saying the word makes me believe that there could be fairness, justice and equality again, if only the squitch returned.

Squitch was a simple convention, and it may have been rooted in the Scriptural principle of “an eye for an eye”. If someone hurt you, harmed you and offended you back in those days, you were perfectly within your rights to act out a similar offence upon them … as long as your action was accompanied by you saying the word “squitch”.

Your retaliation need not have been a carbon copy eye-for-eye or tit-for-tat. Rather, it was all about “some form” of retaliation. So if someone kicked you in the shin for example, you could rap them across the knuckles – even weeks later, or confiscate their favourite ballpoint pen – as long as you told them that your action was “squitch” for what they did. It was your duty to remind them of their offence.

Apparently, it seems like author Mark Twain took squitch in his own way. He is credited with saying, “I take my only exercise acting as a pallbearer at the funerals of my friends who exercise regularly.”

So for those friends who shamed him for his sedentary habits, Twain would carry their coffins as a squitch.

Talking of sedentary habits, mine have come back to bite me in a rather harsh way.

I have spent this past week recovering from a small surgical procedure on my eye. It wasn’t a huge op, but it was necessitated because I spent way too much time staring at screens.

When a person stares at a screen for any length of time, your blink rate tapers off. A normal blink rate is around 15 to 20 times per minute. But when we stare at our screens, reports suggest that blink frequency decreases by 66 percent; meaning that our blink rate drops to six or eight per minute.

Well, without going into too much detail, my dry eyes had some nasty consequences – my eyes eventually said squitch, after all the abuse I had been dishing out to them over the years. And as a result, the new idiom I have learned goes, “a squitch in time, saves eyes”!

I shudder to think what condition I would have been in had I taken the time to watch all the social media videos, pictures and memes that I receive on a daily basis. Usually, I would put videos aside, fully intending to watch them later. Then I would get busy and never get around to them.

However, I am going to be more intentional in avoiding those friendly, inspirational, funny or informative video clips. After the advice and warnings from the optometrist and the eye surgeon, I have to.

Maybe others can learn from the lesson I was taught. Face it, these days we spend way too much time gadget gazing, and I have discovered in a very scary way that screen staring is not good, not at all!

I’ll have to admit that the eye-procedure was just the icing on a cake that’s been baking for a while. For example, I am always irritated and offended when I am bombarded with advertising and promotions when I am trying to read an article or watch content online.

But advertisers use digital advertising to reach the masses, and peppering content with eye-catching – and eye-ruining – advertising is their way of staying visible and relevant I suppose. As for me, I hate it! Digital ads, to me, are like those obnoxious businesses that get their people to set up stalls in mall walkways to accost passing shoppers. Nobody likes them.

Personally, I would much rather sedately page through a magazine or newspaper and look at printed adverts; it appeals to the introvert in me.

Look, I am not only plugging for advertising in a newspaper because I work at a newspaper. Our publication encourages digital advertising, but there are actual benefits of printed newspaper advertising.

After all, in South Africa there are still quite a bit of folk who depend on print advertising due to the fact that many people on or below the breadline probably don’t get to access portals where digital advertising is popular.

Also, even today, print ads in newspapers and magazines continue to be trusted by consumers. According to statistics in a US survey, 82 percent of consumers surveyed there place their trust in print advertisements, while in the same survey, 92 percent of 18 to 23 year-olds said it’s easier for them to read print than digital content.

Maybe, it’s surmised, it’s the feel or smell of the paper and ink that fosters a sense of credibility and authenticity, which can positively impact brand perception.

The other thing is that readers typically spend more time with print publications, around 20 minutes, compared to digital news sites, where it’s all about scrolling on to the next dopamine hit.

Personally, I shut down digital ads as soon as they pop up. Even before my eyes were affected by gadget gazing. I hate the constant and incessant pop-ups when I am trying to use my phone or laptop; I cannot stand the fact that I have to spend so much time closing adverts just to read a news report.

All the flashing and blinking may be eye-catching, but to me it’s distracting, irritating and time consuming. Also, it eats up one’s data when you have to take 10 minutes to battle your way past pop ups to read a five-minute article.

Look, eventually the world will migrate to the digital platforms, and adverts will blink and flash eyes to destruction one day, and that will be all good and wonderful … one day.

But until then, I am going to spend less time gadget gazing, and looking at fewer online adverts; perhaps it’s my way of saying “squitch” to the screens that caused me to go under the knife.

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