TV undermines ‘real’ life

By Libby Zanker

If you’re reading this and you are within eyeshot of a television, I implore you, drop what you’re doing and leave the room.

Nearly every home in America has access to a “boob tube.” TV-Turnoff Week dares you to forgo it for a full seven days.

Many people make television a part of their daily routines. Families may set aside a few hours every day just to sit down and watch television together. They do this rather than take their family out, or even simply play a board game. I can’t see how it helps families to bond when most of their attention is on the screen.

Good television is such a rare commodity these days – and I’m not talking “good” in terms of “entertaining;” I’m talking about “good” in terms of “quality.”

When reality shows took the world by storm, TV viewing peaked. And even after they had their moment in the spotlight, writers continued to churn them out at an almost irritating rate. People were experiencing life through their televisions rather than going out and living it themselves.

And that’s the whole point behind TV-Turnoff Week – to see what life is like without it. Nearly 70 organizations, ranging from libraries to hospitals are lending their support to this event, encouraging reading and academic achievement as well as healthy lifestyles for all. The goal is actually getting people on their feet. With a lack of something to entertain their brain, people will find other things to do – at least that’s the hope.

What should be done, rather than just have people turn off their televisions, is have them set aside every electronic device at their disposal. We rely so much on computers, cell phones, palm pilots and such that we don’t realize we are perfectly capable of living without them.

I have been faced with this in part for over a week now. My cell phone has been experiencing “technical difficulties”: in other words, people can call me (though the phone doesn’t ring), but I can’t call them. In addition, they can’t leave me a message because my voicemail box is full, and I can’t get through to it to thin it out for new incoming messages.

The point of this is I (as well as everyone I know) have had to resort to my landline. Until I get it fixed or replaced (again), there is no point in carrying my phone around. I’ve had to face the reality of having to actually wait to talk to someone. Oh, the horror.

I will not deny the usefulness of today’s technology, but I will advocate any and every instance of people going without it.

In his article, “Observe the Season,” Sunil Iyengar makes clear the American obsession with television and the effects it can have on their very psyche when he says, “Only [television], a non-activity, is capable of muting our response[s].” By this, he means our responses to the world around us.

Those four or so hours a day spent watching TV can be utilized in much better ways. I bet that by turning off your TV for just one week, you will discover that you really aren’t missing much of anything. Rather, you will discover what you already have missed.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.