Videophilia Takes Over




The benefits of spending time outdoors are numerous — fresh air, sunshine, relaxation. Who wouldn’t want that? Apparently, many Americans don’t. Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago tracked outdoor activities over several decades, and found a sharp decline among US citizens. Rates of fishing, hiking, hunting, backpacking and national and state park visits were followed over time and showed decreased use by about 1% per year, for an average of 18% to 25% total decrease.

What’s to blame? Videophilia. The term was coined to refer to the rapid rise in television, video game and computer activity that has occurred in recent years. This is no surprise, as the Internet has exploded not only as a business tool but also as a social networking, shopping and entertainment hub. Instead of taking the family on a drive through Yellowstone, why not just relax at home, let the kids play video games and catch up on your favorite blog?

It’s easy to understand why Americans are choosing to spend their free time at home. We are busier than ever, and unlike a few decades ago, our homes a full of entertainment. Between TiVo, Netflix, video games and the Internet, you could easily spend all day lying on the couch without getting bored. But aren’t we missing out on something important?

Being outdoors is almost synonymous with being active, something that videophilia can’t claim. The mental benefits of nature are equally important, providing a sense of serenity that you’re not going to get from ESPN or the latest violent video game. Everyone could benefit from the physical and emotional boost that inevitably occurs when you spend time outside.

When I was growing up, my family took a vacation almost every year. We visited Yellowstone, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, just to name a few. I have vivid memories of spending time in the wilderness, even if it was just for a day, fishing or boating with my family. I can’t imagine what it would be like to think back on my childhood with fond thoughts of Facebook.

I don’t doubt that people enjoy their videophilia, but it would be healthy for us as individuals and as a nation if we managed to not only enjoy the technological advances available to us today, but also the simpler pleasures of a walk through the woods.

Reference

Pergams, O.R., Zaradic, P.A. (2008). Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(7), 2295-2300. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0709893105

Lindsey Kay, MD

Lindsey Kay, MD, is a medical doctor with training in pathology, and an avid writer. During his training, he worked on pre-clinical and clinical trials in a variety of laboratories related to alcohol effects on the brain, cancer diagnosis, and alternative medicine.
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