Screen addiction: Too much time on my hands

Blue Peppermint (my would-be “stripper name”) is as good a name as one could hope for; an apt moniker for a good-time gal who drops cheeky one-liners and delivers naughty double-entendres with a double-barreled wink.

As instructed by a meme on Facebook, I discovered my stripper name by pairing the color of my eyes with the last food I ate, and voila’ Blue Pep was born. This amusing construct trickled into my newsfeed compliments of high school friends Blue Poptart and Hazel Babybel.

In bygone days, Blue Peppermint would have had top billing at lowbrow joints with whiskey-soaked stages from North Bergen to Atlantic City. In a modern incarnation, “Blue Pep” would have 20 million TikTok followers, perform in rap videos and host a raunchy podcast called Pep Talk.

The intrigue of a provocative, alternative self is so wholly captivating I contrive Blue Pep’s free-heeling escapades in a way that, frankly, seems concerning even to one prone to indulging in the dalliances of the mind.

For instance, I establish Blue Pep as a smart cookie with a carefully crafted onstage persona. She has mad respect among peers and fans, earning big bank and the portmanteau “burbo” (burlesque boss), and alternately turbo burbo to describe her “big energy” for which she appears in the Latto video for the song of the same name. At this point, it’s not entirely clear that Blue Pep is, like me, Caucasian. She’s savvy, sexy, successful.

I am three clicks shy of normal

Realizing the unfiltered thoughts of a woman who is three clicks shy of normal is not everyday reading, I wonder, will you relate to my COVID-induced screen time habits where perhaps you, like me, have found yourself habitually, irretrievably lulled into the metaverse for hours on end – that begin innocently enough with a few “likes” and comments, escalate into an ill-afforded generous donation to a friend’s birthday fundraiser and end with an alternative stripper-self named Blue Peppermint?

Are you three clicks shy of normal?

The outer edges of the social media maelstrom are irresistibly tantalizing. Winding your way out of the funnel requires a degree of mental fortitude I haven’t been able to summon since 2019. We’re averaging 10.4167% of each day in a mostly superfluous “metabyss.” I’m partial to memes, make-up tutorials, listicles and TikTok dances.

Feel free to ask me anything about the following unrelated topics; powder brows, microdart technology, Hannah Bronfman, monkeys, Drew Barrymore, Centuripe and a DJ at @sickickmusic who wears what I can only describe as a bedazzled Darth Vader mask while spinning on the wheels of steel (also bedazzled). His mashup of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and Michael Jacksons’ “Remember the Time” is everything. Seriously, listen to it.

My “Feed,” an ironic nomenclature ascribed to the cascading, kaleidoscopic, cornucopia of content so abundant as to have left me not only starving but vulnerable to all manner of vapid clickbait. I’ve dined on endless photos of half-naked celebrities on beaches, plastic surgery gone wrong and wild animals caught on trail cams (which ended in a grainy image of three deer mating). Hope, as tenuous as it might be, lay in my resistance to further clicking through to, ’10 Shifts to Attract a High Caliber Man (you won’t believe #9)’. I felt pretty good about resisting that but then lost sleep over not knowing #9.

Has COVID created a shortcut between healthy screen time and a long-term stint at Bellevue? Measuring changes in screen time for adults during COVID is not as well documented as for teens. Data suggests recreational screen time for teens has doubled to over seven hours per day and includes TV shows, streaming services, movies, social media, smartphones and gaming.

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the reasons for the increase are boredom, physical distancing, staying informed of the news, connecting with others and mental health. If my escalating daily dips into the “metabyss” are remotely representative of the “normal” adult population and honestly, I’ve never been representative of the normal adult population, then adults are also hooked on the screen like a morphine drip.

This sedentary behavior has potential negative implications on our mental, psychosocial and physical health (I offer myself up as Exhibit A). Though the data suggests I’m not alone in the “metabyss,” I feel distinctly alone.

Would the data suggest Blue Peppermint is a healthy coping mechanism, a panacea for all my pandemic ills or a symptom? Blue Peppermint goes anywhere, can do whatever she wants, speaks her mind, has zero body hang-ups, sports a fabulous wardrobe, and twerks it like there’s no tomorrow. There’s simply no telling how far I’ll, or she’ll, go.

I’m already thinking Pep needs her own Instagram account. She’s the best “burbo” ever and even if I am three clicks shy of normal, I’m not giving her up anytime soon. I highly recommend pairing the color of your eyes with the last thing you ate and see what happens.

Denise Stoughton writes a monthly column for this newspaper.