February 8, 2008
Videophilia may just be another way of saying that couch potato syndrome is going viral. Patricia A. Zaradic and Oliver R.W. Pergams, the biologists who coined the term, define it as “the new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media.” In other words, we’re spending an awful lot of our time sitting on our butts mesmerized by pixels on an electronic screen. How healthy is that? Apparently not very, for us or the planet. Zaradic and Pergams cite studies that implicate our electronic media habit to such scourges as obesity, depression, and ADD. They also look darkly on the impact of videophilia for the future of conservation, correlating an increase in virtual electronic media use with a decrease in direct contact with nature—and research shows that direct contact with nature, especially as children, is critical to our attitude toward the environment.
As fascinated as I am with the PBS series Nature and with programs on the Animal Planet, watching them can’t compare with, say, hiking the grounds of Montaña de Oro State Park overlooking the Pacific or scaling the sand dunes of the southern Oregon coast. Breathing in the salty scent of the sea; bracing against a brisk wind; finding yourself in the company, suddenly, of a deer or chameleon cautiously sensing your presence—you can’t experience any of that through a TV screen. So, listen to your Mother Earth, and go out and play in the fresh air.