Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hawk the TV Set

Let's march right down to the closest pawn shop and hawk our TVs. 

We'll leave tablets, smartphones, mp3 players and other media devices alone for now. 

"Why's television so bad?" you may ask. 

For one thing it's an epic waste of time. How much time do we spend in front of our television screens? An hour a day? More? 

A recent study shows that children are, on average, exposed to 4 hours of background television a day. "Background television" means that the tube is on even when people are going about their business doing other things, not "actively" watching. It has been said that a continual stream of background television inhibits cognitive development in young children. Furthermore, according to a recent Nielsen report, "The average American watches nearly five hours of video each day, 98 percent of which they watch on a traditional TV set.”

That's a lot of time we could be spending with friends or family, learning how to play the accordion, reading the classics, gardening or taking that cardio-kickboxing class. 

Does all this sedentary time contribute to the so-called obesity epidemic? A third of Americans are obese. Another third are overweight. The correlation seems obvious enough.

Besides the time it takes away from actual activity and the assumed accompanying negative health effects, there's also the question of how much influence media consumption has on populations. Because after collecting all those billions of dollars in advertising revenue, television networks and stations are primarily in the communications business, the business of messages, of ideas. 

Mass media - including the "free press" - is entirely owned and operated by an ever smaller number of giant conglomerates. Arguably this fact serves as a limiting agent on the views expressed onscreen. The proliferation of alternative media is a testament to this, given the wealth of viewpoints found outside the mainstream. 

If you sit down and watch commercial television for an hour or more, you are transported into an alternate universe, a place where all the guys are dense beefy everyschlubs and all the gals are sassy hot trim. Here various ethnic groups come together over frozen pizzas, the courts and the police, the FBIs, the CIAs and the DHSes of the world are always the good guys and big tech companies are saving the planet rather than contributing to its ruin. It's a place where there's an app and a pill for all occasions, each with its own encyclopedia of side effects. It's a seamless world of selling, where prolific product placement and riveting commercials blur the line between ads and programming. 

What does prolonged exposure to such a warped worldview do to our minds?

What does prolonged exposure to television do to our souls?