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Featured History/Culture Observations

Art, History, and Entertainment: Changing Horizons


The past two-and-a-half years have thrown challenges that we never could have thought we would have to encounter.

Most important, of course, have been the constant struggles to maintain health, fitness, and a semblance of sanity whilst at the same time providing a steady income for ourselves and our loved ones over these trying times.

Life has been tough alright, but now that there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps it’s time to have a quick reflective glance at how we all coped during the lockdown and what – if any – lasting effect it had on us in terms of how we view the world.

The 21st century has been the era of technology and digitalisation, and with this has come to a massive shift in the ways we keep ourselves entertained. Never has this been so apparent as during the dark days of lockdown when one was faced with indeterminable hours to fill devoid of personal contact with anyone other than those of our direct households.

Personally speaking, these experiences really brought it home to me how the ways people amuse themselves have changed over the years. Without wanting to sound too long in the tooth, I contend that we have all gotten just a little bit too comfortable over the years and as a result we are, as one, becoming a society of couch potatoes.

The advent of online streaming services such as Netflix, Disney, and Amazon as well as the emergence of localised services such as BBC i-player has meant that everything we need to never leave our houses again, entertainment-wise, is at the click of a button.

This is, I feel, a worrying trend. It’s so easy to lose track of time binge-watching series on these outlets or, even worse, channel-hopping and net-surfing with no real purpose. It’s leading to alienation from reality in terms of purpose in many of our lives.

Instead of having goals and being driven to participate in active leisure activities and pursuits, we are settling more and more for time in front of our gadgets and television screens. I know that by just writing that I’m in danger of morphing into my granddad and a rant related to “the good old days”, and “kids these days don’t realise they’re born”, is not far away, but there is a truth in the point I’m making.

Before 24-hour virtual entertainment became a thing, people would develop their own forms of entertainment. As children, the outside world would be their playground and they would embark upon a wondrous journey of discovery and, eventually, enlightenment. Interests and hobbies would naturally evolve from this sense of fun and exploration and often would be carried into adulthood. All of this unfortunately seems to be on the wane now.

No longer do as many people (of all games, not just children) seem to be anywhere near as keen on playing sports, for example. The number of those young and old signing up to play mainstream sports such as grassroots football back in England has declined dramatically over the last twenty years or so, while “niche” sports have suffered even more from declining numbers. Other activities have fallen by the wayside to varying degrees over the relatively recent past also. Creative activities such as writing, penmanship, art, pottery, and craft-making no longer provide the allure they once did, and even simple past times such as playing chess and card games have, to a large degree, been replaced with more digital-based pastimes.

So, what is the attraction to having one’s head metaphorically buried in a gadget instead of a book, then? One could argue that it’s an escape from reality and a chance to forget all woes and hardships for a while. This point could especially be relevant during the dark days of lockdown when doom and gloom abound and the need for some kind of relief was of significant importance, but I wonder how mentally fulfilling it can be in the long run.

Surely we get more out of our brief existences on earth if we are being active and, indeed, proactive in our own little worlds. A sense of achievement comes with knowing we have created or participated rather than just watched some others on a small screen doing things, and yet it can be increasingly difficult to break the cycle of apathy.

All is not lost though. It’s still possible to use digitalisation as a springboard for motivation if we harness it correctly and prudently. From the internet and what we observe others doing, we can find and promote inspiration in ourselves and others, and that is why parents and teachers must monitor both the duration and content of children’s online activities. With a degree of imagination, it’s possible to explore new avenues and thus broaden one’s horizons once more.

There is still a whole world out there waiting to be discovered and the development of technology can be beneficial if we control it rather than allow it to control us. Use our time wisely, seek new horizons, discover new things, meet new people, travel – whether literally or virtually – and live life to the fullest.

Life is too short to spend it with our heads permanently stuck in our gadgets with no discernable purpose.

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