Time and Society
School of Education
© The Author(s) 2019. Screen time once referred to television. Nowadays, it includes various screen sizes that are internet-enabled devices, and the pervasive smartphone. Regardless of what kind of screen is used, screen time comprises much of life itself. Being online and offline is now fairly blurred because of the ubiquitousness of technologies, Wi-Fi and screens. This paper puts forth the notion of ‘temporal digital control’ to explain the choice of when and why smartphones and other portable digital devices are used in today’s cultural milieu, and it theorizes the ‘why’ of contemporary smartphone use is so prominent suggesting it enables temporal digital control in an autonomous space. Coupled with the engrossment of such use, the article elaborates how gazing at a digital device comprises a temporal connection, alongside a disconnection from real life, and a possible inauthenticity that could affect well-being. Recently published literature on ‘waiting’ is included to help theorize why actors choose to use digital technologies while waiting. Being preoccupied, or busy, or doing something with one’s smartphone while waiting creates a sense of alleged status, importance or connection in the form of digital temporal control. An array of vignettes is provided to demonstrate agentic disengagement with the present in a preference for moving into a temporal autonomous space of ‘perceived’ digital control. When gazing at and using a digital device, users are arguably disengaging with the temporal present, disconnecting with others who may be beside them, in preference to the creation of temporal (and digital) autonomous spaces. Regardless of what the user is doing on their smartphone or device, the use of technologies can provide a temporal autonomous space of digital control.
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