I don’t own a tv…
…but I do own a computer, and these days you can do almost anything on a computer, including watch TV. There are many, many fewer ads and you don’t fall prey as easily to the chanel surfing phenomenon, but it’s still essentially television with its (mostly) unhealthy side-effects.
Enter Mark Shiffman:
Originally, we did not have televisions because we always had something better to do. This to me is the first question to ask yourself with regard to watching television: Is there something better I could be doing – something better for me, for my family and household, for my community? As it turns out, the answer to that question is always yes. Even when we need to relax, there is always a better way to do it than in front of a screen of moving images pumping them directly into our minds…
The quality of our life depends to a great extent on the quality of our love. The quality of our love depends on the attention we give to other human beings and to our natural surroundings. Attention is not only a sign or expression of love. In an important way, it is the very substance of love, a central part of the very practice of loving. By receptive attention, we make space in ourselves for the presence of something or someone else. If we do not do this, we do not love….
By habituating us to follow along impatiently and passively, to filter and frame the world before we’ve had the chance to see anything, television damages our capacity to love well, to love others and the natural world for what they are rather than for what they can do for us. Television is, after all, one of the great tools and purveyors of consumer culture. The culture of consumption and exploitation has every interest in encouraging our self-centered and unreflective egoism and our oblivion to the loveliness of the natural world….
These are just excerpts – the whole thing is worth a read. Shiffman gets to the question that is the focal point of his post, which is: “Does the presence of a television in a home ever increase the happiness of those who live together there?”
I would have to agree with his conclusion that quite the contrary is true. And it’s hard. Even though we long ago ditched our television, we still watch our various shows online, and they’re mostly enjoyable. It’s a great way to kill time – an expression which is, when one thinks about it, frightening enough to give pause.
It’s certainly the easy way out. After a long day of work, a couple hours spent chasing your kid(s) at the park and helping with chores, it’s often hard to sit down with a book and not fall promptly asleep; or to sit down for a nice conversation over glasses of wine and stay in any sense of the word awake.
Television works its strange magic on us by allowing us to at once completely zone out and stay wide awake after a long and tiring day. This internet creature is also strangely addictive and time-sucking, though I don’t think it quite turns the mind off in the way that tv does. It certainly can lead to a bit of ADHD though…
Do you ever find yourself reading a book or an article and wishing you could click a link about this or that subject to find out more about it? Not a good sign. This is the insidious promise of kindle in the long run – turning our reading of books into little more than web sessions, contributing to our collective levels of distraction….