Screen Media in the Time of COVID-19: Should You Be Reading this Blog?

Screen Media. Cell phones. Social media accounts. If you are a parent, you have probably discussed rules of engagement with your children about these things. All of our modern social media platforms are designed to keep us engaged with them by showing us the latest post, the next video or the people now online. Work emails give us notifications when something arrives in our Inbox. Business software platforms like Microsoft Teams send us notifications whenever someone comments in a conversation we have ever been part of. There are many siren signals pulling us toward our screens.

Enter COVID-19, the flu-like illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has already claimed the lives of 210,000 people in the United States, and leaving countless others permanently affected by other long-term health consequences. Spread by aerosol, COVID-19 is most dangerous in places where lots of people congregate in a small area, particularly if they are talking to each other. Consequently, office buildings are empty as many of us work or go to school remotely.

Before COVID-19, if I had a day full of meetings at work, I was running from conference room to conference room, two miles, uphill, in the snow between buildings. Now, a day full of meetings means sitting in front of a computer monitor, trying to figure out how I will get any kind of break between calls. The average number of steps recorded by my pedometer has decreased markedly since March when our remote work started.

Technology has been an incredible blessing during this pandemic—allowing us to continue to work and stay connected with friends and family. Technology is the only way that some people can connect with loved ones in long-term care facilities. It allows students to continue learning through remote classrooms and chats.

But what has been the effect of the increased time spent on screens during this pandemic?

Shane Mauss, stand-up comedian, science enthusiast and host of the Here We Are podcast will be moderating a special Crowdcast session “The Media Dilemma” to discuss screen time and the pandemic. Before the pandemic, Shane said that he worked with an assistant who managed his screen work—keeping him off screen media—while he traveled and interviewed scientists for his podcast. Since the pandemic Shane has been managing the screen work, from social media to web site and more. He now finds himself spending, minimally 8 hours a day in front of a screen, and he thought it would be great fun to have a show that was a conversation on whether you should even be watching the show.

What a fun idea to have a show that is a conversation on whether you should even be watching the very show you are watching!

Shane Mauss

Shane’s guests for this virtual episode of Here We Are include Heather Kirkorian, PhD,  UW-Madison Professor and Director of the Cognitive Development and Media Lab. Dr. Kirkorian’s research examines the intersection of cognitive development, media effects and family studies. Joining her is Catalina Toma, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication Science at UW-Madison. Dr. Toma’s research centers on how people understand and relate to each other when interacting via communication technologies. Ken Reid, comedian, self-described TV nerd and host of the TV Guidance Counselor podcast will join the panel to provide some counterpoint to Shane.

This crowdcast virtual presentation promises to be filled with humor, balanced discussions of the issues and lots of chat. Shane describes it as a nice way of having a community get-together.

Promega is pleased to sponsor this crowdcast presentation as part of the Wisconsin Science Festival. Check it out! You can register for The Media Dilemma here.

You can also find many other amazing activities for this year’s Wisconsin Science Festival at:

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Michele Arduengo

Michele Arduengo

Supervisor, Digital Marketing Program Group at Promega Corporation
Michele earned her B.A. in biology at Wesleyan College in Macon, GA, and her PhD through the BCDB Program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA where she studied cell differentiation in the model system C. elegans. She taught on the faculty of Morningside University in Sioux City, IA, and continues to mentor science writers and teachers through volunteer activities. Michele supervises the digital marketing program group at Promega, leads the social media program and manages Promega Connections blog.

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