All virtual and no reality makes Airman a dull warrior

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Austin Knox
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
The ever increasing convenience and hypnotic allure of interactive screen time is something each professional warrior needs to assess for their own risk and reward threshold to maximize working environment efficiency.

As Airmen warriors we are part of the profession of arms who work within the virtual world daily. Part of being a professional is the responsibility to monitor your safety which extends into the virtual world and mental health safety.

Warrior: noun: engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly: a person engaged in some struggle or conflict

Professional: adjective 1 a: of, relating to, or resembling that of a profession b: having a particular profession as a permanent career
2 a: taking part for money in an activity (as sport) that others do for pleasure b: engaged in by persons who are paid

Safety: noun 1: the state or condition of being safe: freedom from hurt, injury, or loss
2: a protective device (as on a pistol) to prevent accidental operation

Considering Merriam Webster’s definitions and my own experiences I’m going to express that:

Airman = Warrior = Professional = Safety

With America being the World War champions that we are, most good and bad warrior habits have been identified to us. One area that I think the scale can unknowingly tip on us is in the realm of the mighty internet which can easily become a bad warrior habit and thus impact out mental health and safety.

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art said, “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.”

Amateur and professional habits are no strangers to the virtual world. Along with all the many obviously amazing benefits that the internet revolution brings, problems of excessive internet screen time are becoming apparent.

Internet addiction is a problem of modern societies and is a phenomenon that various sciences such as medicine, computer, sociology, law, ethics and psychology have surveyed from different viewpoints.

People who lose control over their actions in life and spend more than 38 hours a week online are considered to have an internet addiction, according to manuscripts of cross-sectional studies conducted on 250 students from four universities in Isfahan. They describe internet addiction as an impulse control disorder that does not involve the use of an intoxicating drug.

The study went on to show that excessive internet use creates a heightened level of psychological arousal, which can result in low quality sleep, failure of adequate nutrition and limited physical activity. Users were shown to experience physical and mental health problems such as depression, obsessive compulsion, low family relationships and anxiety.

Nicholas Carr, Pulitzer Prize finalist, asserts that internet use reduces the deep thinking that leads to true creativity. He also says that prolonged online activity overstimulates the brain, causing the brain to give most of its attention to short-term decisions. He says that the vast and convenient availability of stimuli can lead to a very large cognitive load, which makes it difficult to remember anything.

According to the New York Times, many scientists say that people's ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

From 53,573 page views taken from various users, 17 percent of the views lasted less than 4 seconds while 4 percent lasted more than 10 minutes. In regards to page content, users will only read 49 percent of a site that contains 111 words or fewer while users will read 28 percent of an average website which has approximately 593 words.

None of these symptoms seem desirable, let alone commensurate with being a professional warrior. We have the responsibility to be the professionals that we are and cultivate professional virtual habits.

In consideration of those facts I’ve gone on long enough, and remind you that interactive screen time is something that we need to personally assess to maximize efficiency. The legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said it best, “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That's the mark of a true professional.”