Thursday, July 28, 2011

TV Watching

The other day I mentioned a few stats on the amount of television Americans watch today. It generated some conversation, so it seemed a good topic to investigate further. I must state up front that I have no axe to grind with TV watchers. And television watchers are not a homogenous group who all approach the activity in the same manner with the same goals. One person is helplessly recovering from surgery. The television helps pass the emptiness of the hours. Other are involved with high-stress, mind-numbing engagement in their jobs. The television helps them unwind.

Here are the questions I asked a few Facebook friends who agreed to be "interviewed."

1. Did your family watch TV as a daily custom when you were growing up?

Many, if not most of the people I interviewed said that their families watched TV as a daily custom when they were growing up. Pedro A., who grew up in Brazil and recently moved to France after a number of years in the States wrote, "Watching the nightly news together was as important as having dinner together."

AA offered this perspective. "This is a complicated question to answer due to the fact that coming from a divorced family I grew up with two households. Distinctly different my mother maintained a house hold with a TV we children would haul out of the closet to watch in the upstairs hall way when we really wanted to. My father on the other hand is and always has been a TV addict with several sets in the house one or more on at any given time day or night. In fact shunting off the television at night was a sure way to wake him from a deep sleep, at which point he would turn the set back on and fall again to sleep."

Susan S. wrote, "I don't watch TV, I don't have the black box. I haven't watched regular TV since before 9/11. I'd rather read, walk my dog or listen to NPR Minnesota or NPR Wisconsin. I don't miss TV all!!! I used to be a regular TV watcher during the 60's, lots of TV. 1970's not so much TV but did keep track of a few shows regularly. 1980's: Watched some TV with the family, particularly the Phoenix, Columbo, and Quincy. Gave up on TV during the 90's."

2. What were the trigger events that caused you to swing around from watching television to not watching it?

Tabitha N.: "I stopped watching TV my sophomore fall semester because I was too busy with school, the play, and friends to bother with it."

Pedro: "I reduced the amount of TV watching very early, during the 80s, ... mostly because of nonconformism. But remained a watcher of high-production-value series, history and science documentaries, and movies on TV. From there, it was a slow tapering off. I had no cable TV for many years (during the last ten years), and one year ago we decided to not buy a replacement TV set after we moved to Europe."

AA: "The conversion to digital marked the end of my relationship with TV."

3. Do you ever feel strange because the culture is so television focused?

Tab: "Yes, because it doesn't really allow for any social interaction or use or development of any skills."

Pedro: "Sometimes yes, but I notice that we're not alone in this trend. To not have a TV set causes less surprise now than to not have a subscription to paid TV would cause ten years ago. But sometimes we observe that neighbors do watch TV nonstop, and wonder if they are having a real life."

4. In what ways are you different (from earlier in your life) because you do not watch TV?

Pedro: "I think more independently and I'm less affected by marketing, pop culture, and political trends. I also actively interact with other people more frequently."

AA: "I find TV distracting to be around and am hard pressed to take my eyes off it when it is on. Once upon a time I could flip the tube on and zone out on mindless junk, influenced by what ever add campaign was popular. No more. How am I different? I am less isolated and more engaged."

Chani B. summed up her experience this way: "Haven't had a TV in a year and a half and I am very glad about that! I'd be happy to share what life is like on the other side."

There was, however, a contrarian whose comments can be used to represent a portion of the silent majority: "I need the TV!! I not only get to hear the news but see so many programs & documentaries on Art & History & our natural world. Interviews & introduction to new ideas and people.... music from around the world, cuisines that I'd never have tried otherwise and just knowing how 'connected' we ALL are as part of this beautiful world. I think the TV just 'broadens' my horizon, makes me more 'human'."

On these matters, much more can be said... but for now, enjoy the day.

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