Over-Stimulated and Under-Satisfied — The Problem with Ubiquitous Television

It’s not that I hate television.

I do have a TV. 

It’s not a smart TV, though, or a giant TV. 

Maybe if my household were big sports fans, or if we wanted a superior movie-watching experience at home, we’d have a big and extra-smart TV. But our simple set-up works just fine for us.

But this isn’t about me and my household and our simple TV.

This is about not living by default.

This is about un-doing the overwhelming presence and prominence of the television in our lives.

This is about humans deciding with far, far more intention how we’re creating our collective life on this planet.

Ubiquitous television is numbing us

We’re going around in a limp state of numbness from TVs (and screens) in our faces most of our waking hours.

Now, I’ve got no problem with the existence of televisions.

It’s just that we’ve gotten to the point where we treat them like an absolute-must-have at times and in places when they’re most definitely not required, needed, helpful, or remotely necessary.

But we’ve ended up with TVs on by default in all manner of places because that’s what we’ve gotten used to.

And we keep piling TVs on, thinking of more places to put TVs and more ways to watch TVs. 

Next thing we know, our spirit is flat.

Our aliveness is dulled.

We don’t know what to do with ourself without the TV.

We’re dependent on the thing.

We can no longer come up with things to do with our time.

We don’t know what to do with our attention without a TV to look at.

We count on the constant drip of dopamine that’s basically the high-fructose-corn-syrup version of actual recreation, information, guidance, and education. 

And this is no way to live these beautiful human lives. 

TVs are just everywhere

I haven’t done the hands-on research to say this for the rest of the world, but the television is quite often, if not usually, the first thing you see in a house in the US. 

It’s prominently located, it’s big, it’s unattractive, and it’s constantly on. 

Oh, but they’re everywhere else, too. 

In stores, restaurants, waiting rooms, the gym, on airplanes, at the gas pump, and even inside cars. 

Do we really even want to watch this much television?

But we don’t notice them anymore.

Let’s put television back in its place

So I’m on a bit of a mission to put televisions back in their place. 

As in: not everywhere. 

Not as a centerpiece of the house and constantly on. 

Not at the gas pump. 

Not in the grocery store. 

Not in the gym. 

Not in waiting rooms. 

And certainly not within eyesight of my table in a restaurant where my meal costs as much as a couple of days’ worth of regular old groceries. 

Or even at a less expensive restaurant. 

Can’t we just eat without the noise? 

Without the distraction?

We’re numbed by the ubiquitous television

Because we’re numb to “all TV, all the time,” we’re numb inside.

We’re either vegging in front of the TV, or it’s simply on in the background. 

But how much of it is what we really like and are glad we traded our hours and attention for? 

And how much of what’s blaring in front of us is advertising and not even what we sat down to watch?

I do realize that people like to wind down with television, and even fall asleep to it. 

And I know that having voices on in the house keeps people company, too. And I guess I’m cool with all that. 

But I’m not cool with these things:

1. The TV has become a sort of god in modern life.

We hardly know what to think without it. 

We’re bored and don’t know what to do with ourself without it. 

We’re lost and lonely without it.

We count on it for information and guidance. 

We turn to it for lack of other plans or ideas.

2. We’re so accustomed to the TV that it hasn’t even dawned on most of us that we only see what the TV shows us.

We end up letting the television supply what we know about the world around us — or worse, what we don’t know because of what we’re not shown. 

We see what we see because someone else decides what’s on. 

3. We have all the channels ever, yet it’s never satisfying.

It’s like there’s nothing on, even with hundreds of channels.

And all too often, it’s just not that interesting.

4. We rarely have the opportunity to not stare at a TV these days.

They’re everywhere. 

Absolutely everywhere. 

5. We’re instantly bored without a television (or a screen) to keep our attention. 

6. The ever-present television has chipped away at yet another little bit of our attention span.

7. Personally, TVs look to me like a black hole of sadness in a room.

At least earlier TVs had some style. 

8. The commercials. Sigh.

Remember when they were 30 or 60 seconds long?? 

But nooooo, now they’re are five or more minutes of commercials. 

Plus, they’re predatory! 

As in, Oh Hell No, pharmaceutical companies should not be advertising their addictive, profit-motivated products to us. 

Remember cigarette ads and liquor ads? 

Right. 

We should nix pharmaceutical ads, too. 

9. Advertisers determine the news we get. 

If the advertisers don’t like the news, then we don’t get to see it.

We don’t get to know about it. 

(This is true of all media, actually, but I digress.) 

Personally, I’d rather be the judge of what news I get to know about than what advertisers decide is best for their quarterly profits.

10. Perhaps worst of all, TV doesn’t deliver. 

We’re over-stimulated and under-satisfied. 

Relying so much on TV is like trying to live on junk food. 

For snacking, it’s great stuff. 

(I mean, I love me some Cheetos now and again.)

But as sustenance, we end up hopped up on weird chemicals, cheap starches, chemically laden salt that won’t clump, and unhealthy oils.

And damned if we’re not still hungry. 

We’re filled up but we’re not satisfied.

And TV is all the same way.

Good for some things, but it was never meant to be our sustenance. 

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