It should have been no surprise that one week before the Seahawks play in the Super Bowl I found myself following my husband into the TV section of the Sony store.
“Maybe we get one for a month and return it,” he said, gazing into one of the flat black rectangles showing “The Avengers” on the wall and completely kidding. I think.
Super Bowl week sees the third-highest sales of TVs 55 inches and larger, according to analyst The NPD Group. That makes perfect sense: The Super Bowl, more than any other live event, demands to be watched in packs.
But looked at another way, it’s extraordinary. TVs used to be the Big Attraction, but these days it’s the smaller, more personal screens that really suck us in. We carry them in our pockets and consult them with every need or spare moment. The pesky things even consult us. Buzz! You have a text. Buzz! Someone likes your photo. Buzz! Haven’t you read that text yet? Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
It’s weird to say it, but in a small-screens world, it’s the big screens that feel fresh. Millions of them will be tuned Sunday to the same large field in New Jersey, and when I sit with friends and family to watch, yell, jump and probably let out a swear or two in front of my 1-year-old (he’ll understand), I’m going to appreciate that.
Living with small screens makes me want to honor what a big, shared screen can do.
If you’ve seen the movie “Her” (you should; it’s awesome), you might have noticed that its version of the near future has us interacting way more with personal technology but way less with little screens. In a Wired article about why the film will influence tech design even more than “Minority Report,” the movie’s production designer, K.K. Barrett, suggested that today’s smartphones pull us away too much.
“They need too much attention,” he said. “You don’t really want to be stuck engaging them. You want to be free.”
I’m an expressive person, and I can’t count how many laughs or gasps I’ve had to hold in because the trigger, whatever it was, was on my smartphone. I keep a poker face checking my phone on the bus, on the street, in line at the coffee shop. My mind’s in another world, but my face is still in this one.
And if a friend lets out a giggle, and I bother to ask what she saw on her phone that’s so funny, it’s as likely she’ll send it to my screen rather than show it to me on hers. That’s just as well. I’ve had to hold some pretty awkward postures to huddle around somebody’s teeny YouTube video.
Luckily those tend to be short.
Small screens are personal. That’s what makes them fit every nook and cranny of our lives. But when we want big, shared media experiences, we still need the big, shared screens.
It sounds obvious, but it’s encouraging. We can customize so much to fit our schedule and specifications that it’s good to remember there are some things so big we all just want to be a part of them. Invite our friends, grab some beers, turn on the TV and laugh, cry and shout all we want, with — aah! — no idea what’s going to happen next.
If my husband and I hadn’t picked this season to start watching Seahawks games, the last big event I would have seen live would’ve been last year’s Oscars. Instead, we’ve spent most weekends this fall hosting friends we otherwise would have barely seen. On the last play of the championship game, I found myself in a spinning, leaping hug with a friend I hadn’t seen in months.
Those of us tuning in to watch the Hawks on Sunday may not be in New Jersey, but we will be here, now, together. At a time when we can be somewhere else as easily as we can swipe a locked screen, that means something.
Go big screens. And go Hawks.
Mónica Guzmán’s column appears in Sunday’s Seattle Times. Got a story about living with technology in the Northwest — or know someone she should meet? Send her an email, follow her on Twitter @moniguzman or send her a message on Facebook.