Avidly Reads Screen Time

What happens when screen time is all the time?

Phillip Maciak (Photo: Washington University)

In the early 1990s, the phrase “screen time” emerged to scare parents about the dangers of too much TV for kids. Screen time was something to fret over, police, and judge in a low-grade moral panic. Now, “screen time” has become a metric not only for good parenting, but for our adult lives as well.

There’s even an app for it! In the streaming era—and with streaming made nearly ubiquitous during COVID-19—almost every aspect of our day is mediated by these bright surfaces. Whether it was ever the real villain in the first place, or merely a convenient proxy for unaddressed familial, social, and institutional failures, screen time is now all the time.

Avidly Reads Screen Time is a funny, insightful work of cultural criticism and history about how we define screens, and how they now define us. From Mad Men to iCarly, Vine to FaceTime, binge-watching to doom-scrolling, Phillip Maciak leads us on a sometimes heartwarming, sometimes harrowing tour of the media that brings us together and tears us apart.

About the author

Phillip Maciak is the TV editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and a lecturer in English and American Culture Studies, both in Arts & Sciences, at Washington University in St. Louis. He’s the author of The Disappearing Christ: Secularism in the Silent Era, and his writing has appeared in SlateThe New Republic, and The Week, among other places.

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