Television -- a disease, or a symptom?

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Television -- a disease, or a symptom? Empty Television -- a disease, or a symptom?

Post by Ben Reilly on Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:30 pm

(Thanks to edds, who heard my idea for this thread and found the following brilliant quote ...)

“Maybe television causes cancer, Garp thinks; but his real irritation is a writer's irritation: he knows that wherever the TV glows, there sits someone who isn't reading.”
― John Irving, The World According to Garp

If I might be so bold as to paraphrase John Irving, I'd like to alter that to read:

“Maybe television causes cancer, Garp thinks; but his real irritation is a human being's irritation: he knows that wherever the TV glows, there sits someone who isn't living.”

Leaning out the back door just a few minutes ago, smoking a roll-up, I found my eyes flitting to all the windows I could see from my vantage point in our neighborhood, and what did I see?

In nearly every window, a flickering television screen.

And that got me to wondering what all these people were doing parked in front of a TV, just like I often find myself.

Ever since TV's been around, people have found themselves parked in front of it for hours. Why? Is it that compelling? Are we that pathetic?

In short, yes and yes.

Television is a window into some world that for some reason is more interesting or comforting than your life at the moment.

So is that television's fault?

Or is it us -- have we failed to create lives for ourselves that we simply can't bear to be distracted from?

I could get REALLY long-winded with this, but I'd rather it be a discussion than a sermon. So I'll wrap it up with an observation, and then a question:

Television programs are definitively not about people who spend all their time watching television ...

Why is that?

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Post by Maddog on Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:26 pm

Ben Reilly wrote:(Thanks to edds, who heard my idea for this thread and found the following brilliant quote ...)

“Maybe television causes cancer, Garp thinks; but his real irritation is a writer's irritation: he knows that wherever the TV glows, there sits someone who isn't reading.”
― John Irving, The World According to Garp

If I might be so bold as to paraphrase John Irving, I'd like to alter that to read:

“Maybe television causes cancer, Garp thinks; but his real irritation is a human being's irritation: he knows that wherever the TV glows, there sits someone who isn't living.”

Leaning out the back door just a few minutes ago, smoking a roll-up, I found my eyes flitting to all the windows I could see from my vantage point in our neighborhood, and what did I see?

In nearly every window, a flickering television screen.

And that got me to wondering what all these people were doing parked in front of a TV, just like I often find myself.

Ever since TV's been around, people have found themselves parked in front of it for hours. Why? Is it that compelling? Are we that pathetic?

In short, yes and yes.

Television is a window into some world that for some reason is more interesting or comforting than your life at the moment.

So is that television's fault?

Or is it us -- have we failed to create lives for ourselves that we simply can't bear to be distracted from?

I could get REALLY long-winded with this, but I'd rather it be a discussion than a sermon. So I'll wrap it up with an observation, and then a question:

Television programs are definitively not about people who spend all their time watching television ...

Why is that?

Before that it was the radio, before that books.

I spend too much time on the internet, but I can go a week at a time without turning on my TV.

I get very bored watching shows, so I tend to go out and do things. But I'm single. Raising kids in a family is different. You kind of need to be home and there is only so much gardening you can do, assuming you have a garden in the first place.

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Post by 'Wolfie on Wed Sep 18, 2019 3:56 am

Television -- a disease, or a symptom? 3408175593

Maddog's 'single'  ???

Thought he would still have a girlfriend over there, the way he keeps yapping on..

Probably chased her/them away with his constant redneck 'libertarian' whining balderdash.

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Post by Maddog on Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:04 am

'Wolfie wrote:Television -- a disease, or a symptom? 3408175593

Maddog's 'single'  ???

Thought he would still have a girlfriend over there, the way he keeps yapping on..

Probably chased her/them away with his constant redneck 'libertarian' whining balderdash.

I'm hardly whining. It's you that thinks the end is near.

I have a far better attitude and outlook than you, and it shows in our posts.

Yours drip with anger and rage.

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Post by Eilzel on Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:23 am

Ben Reilly wrote:(Thanks to edds, who heard my idea for this thread and found the following brilliant quote ...)

“Maybe television causes cancer, Garp thinks; but his real irritation is a writer's irritation: he knows that wherever the TV glows, there sits someone who isn't reading.”
― John Irving, The World According to Garp

If I might be so bold as to paraphrase John Irving, I'd like to alter that to read:

“Maybe television causes cancer, Garp thinks; but his real irritation is a human being's irritation: he knows that wherever the TV glows, there sits someone who isn't living.”

Leaning out the back door just a few minutes ago, smoking a roll-up, I found my eyes flitting to all the windows I could see from my vantage point in our neighborhood, and what did I see?

In nearly every window, a flickering television screen.

And that got me to wondering what all these people were doing parked in front of a TV, just like I often find myself.

Ever since TV's been around, people have found themselves parked in front of it for hours. Why? Is it that compelling? Are we that pathetic?

In short, yes and yes.

Television is a window into some world that for some reason is more interesting or comforting than your life at the moment.

So is that television's fault?

Or is it us -- have we failed to create lives for ourselves that we simply can't bear to be distracted from?

I could get REALLY long-winded with this, but I'd rather it be a discussion than a sermon. So I'll wrap it up with an observation, and then a question:

Television programs are definitively not about people who spend all their time watching television ...

Why is that?

Well there was 'gogglebox' which was about people watching and commenting on TV shows. Absolute trash TV imo but it took the UK by storm a few years ago Laughing

But, as maddog already mentioned, we had radio and books before that. And before that people listening to story tellers.

And the key word there is 'story'.

Stories (as you ought to know more than most!) are one of the most powerful forms of art, and we can't get enough. People listened to oral story tellers (bards etc.) for millenia because we love to hear them. They flocked to theatres for them. They devoured books and newspapers to enjoy them in privacy. They listened to them on the radio. Now we watch them on TV (doesn't matter if it's news, a documentary, a drama or HBO epic, they all revolve around stories).

TVs are also the easiest way to consume them, requiring no imagination and therefore little brain power whatsoever. Which combines TWO things people love: Storys + Making things easier.

Combine a love of stories with no thought power, being able to do it without leaving home, sat down, all hours of the day, and you have a recipe for disaster (if we can call it as such, and I think we can). Videogames, reading, sports, going to the cinema or whatever else can never be as popular because they all ask for a bit more of the consumer. The only thing challenging TV's dominance is, horrifyingly, the smartphone/youtube/social media cocktail pale

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Post by nicko on Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:23 am

+1
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Post by JulesV on Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:34 pm

TV is not the problem, it's been around for a century. Nowt new there.

It's social media that's making people antisocial, that's the paradox.

It's a disgrace that our leaders are setting such a poor example - chucking very personal insults around like confetti. Farage is one of the worst offenders - he's in the news today for his trolling abuse.  A 12 yo girl on her period hurls more mature insults than he does.

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Post by nicko on Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:02 pm

Can't agree with that Jules !
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Post by Ben Reilly on Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:34 pm

I guess what I'm driving at is, have we designed for ourselves a society that is so boring, we all feel the need to routinely escape into a more-exciting world for hours each day?

Should we do something about that? Should our jobs be more exciting, maybe? Have we made the world too monotonous? Is it too easy to get stuck in a rut?

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Post by Ben Reilly on Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:37 pm

I also guess maybe I'm talking about escapism in general rather than just television. And I do enjoy a good story! I just wonder if people are escaping their lives excessively, and if that says more about them or about the world they live in.

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Post by Maddog on Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:48 pm

Ben Reilly wrote:I guess what I'm driving at is, have we designed for ourselves a society that is so boring, we all feel the need to routinely escape into a more-exciting world for hours each day?

Should we do something about that? Should our jobs be more exciting, maybe? Have we made the world too monotonous? Is it too easy to get stuck in a rut?

That's why they invented skydiving.

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Post by Eilzel on Sat Sep 21, 2019 5:44 am

Ben Reilly wrote:I also guess maybe I'm talking about escapism in general rather than just television. And I do enjoy a good story! I just wonder if people are escaping their lives excessively, and if that says more about them or about the world they live in.

I'm torn on this. I think the answer is both and neither (how's that for fence sitting).

My loves are reading, writing and gaming. All three are massive forms of escapism, but I wouldn't say that says much about me other than I LOVE sinking into unreal worlds as much as I love exploring the real one. I enjoy my job immensely and travel as often as that job allows me. But when I get back from either I will sink hours into either the latest book I'm obsessed with, story I'm writing, or game I'm gripped by. In my case, I'd say I just enjoy all these things, and am generally more optimistic about the opportunities the world presents us with than most (of course I'm massively biased there lol).

I don't think there was a time in human history when people didn't want escapism though. It is just easier to do now than in the past - when people were worked like slaves in feudal systems or factories, back then simply surviving was more important that escapism. Fact is the world has and will always have problems. Not just those created by the current make up of society but illness, family strife, personal conflicts etc. And TV/books/movies/games (stories) will always provide a way of getting away from that for a while.

It is too easy to get stuck in a rut, and those who ONLY spend their free time watching TV more than likely just suffer from little imagination (or not enough energy) to do anything else. Or they may just not have the resources to do anything else.

Which I suppose would place the blame mainly on the society we've built (what a typically Leftist conclusion).

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Post by Original Quill on Sat Sep 21, 2019 5:49 pm

Ben Reilly wrote:I also guess maybe I'm talking about escapism in general rather than just television. And I do enjoy a good story! I just wonder if people are escaping their lives excessively, and if that says more about them or about the world they live in.

Interesting description, escapism. I always thought of media as a form of communication, of which fiction was only a sub-set. TV also brings us news and commentary, as well as fiction...the same as radio before it, print before that, and theaters (Gk. theatron, from "seeing place") before that, and personal interaction (eg, the Royal Exchange in the days of Pepys) all along.

I don't think these different settings are opposed to one another...they are just different ways of exchanging information and ideas. Even "the pub" plays into this. But unlike the format of principal/spectator, it is every bit like the Greek chorus, in the agora (marketplace).

TV itself is not inherently destructive. But there does appear to be something wrong with the content. Of course, there's always the idea raised by Marshall Mcluhan, that the medium is the message:

Marshall McLuhan, at 8 wrote:...the personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology."

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Post by Ben Reilly on Sat Sep 21, 2019 9:18 pm

To springboard a bit off what Les said, I guess with TV and every other medium, you have to distinguish between escapism and, for lack of a better word, literature. Something with true artistic merit, which many would argue is a quality to be found in shows like Breaking Bad and plenty others, is worthwhile even if it has an element of escapism.

Reality crap, along with most TV comedies, is pure pap just intended to allow us to unplug our brains for a while. Which isn't all bad, either -- sometimes, every once in a while, we probably all need that.

To be fair, when I was looking out the window a few nights ago, I had no idea what those people were watching. Or whether they're staring at the tube every night for hours on end.

I just go back to the fantasy and sci-fi geeks who seem to live for ComiCon and their beloved fictional franchises. We all know they probably don't have much going on in their lives, and they're filling a hole with escapism.

I wonder if that's their fault, or if we haven't made life interesting enough for ourselves. You could lump escapism with drugs if you follow this line of thinking -- that the range of jobs and ways of making a life for yourself are too boring, and so we try to escape that boredom.

Now I'm really rambling and I'm going to stop.

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Post by Eilzel on Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:32 am

Ben Reilly wrote:To springboard a bit off what Les said, I guess with TV and every other medium, you have to distinguish between escapism and, for lack of a better word, literature. Something with true artistic merit, which many would argue is a quality to be found in shows like Breaking Bad and plenty others, is worthwhile even if it has an element of escapism.

Reality crap, along with most TV comedies, is pure pap just intended to allow us to unplug our brains for a while. Which isn't all bad, either -- sometimes, every once in a while, we probably all need that.

To be fair, when I was looking out the window a few nights ago, I had no idea what those people were watching. Or whether they're staring at the tube every night for hours on end.

I just go back to the fantasy and sci-fi geeks who seem to live for ComiCon and their beloved fictional franchises. We all know they probably don't have much going on in their lives, and they're filling a hole with escapism.

I wonder if that's their fault, or if we haven't made life interesting enough for ourselves. You could lump escapism with drugs if you follow this line of thinking -- that the range of jobs and ways of making a life for yourself are too boring, and so we try to escape that boredom.

Now I'm really rambling and I'm going to stop.

But what of the fantasy and sci-fi geeks with great jobs? Also, fantasy and sci-fi geeks tend to be incredibly into reading and gaming too, arguably usually more so than TV, and are the last people on earth you'd expect to see watching trash TV Wink

I suppose if the idea is 'life is boring so people turn to escapism' then you have to present what people whose lives weren't boring would be doing with their free time instead.

TV, rightly so, has a bad rep, so I totally get the negativity from a one off observation of everyhouse being glued to it.

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Post by Original Quill on Sun Sep 22, 2019 1:38 am

What is art. In the context of a debate on obscenity, United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio. In explaining why the material at issue in the case was not obscene under the Roth test, and therefore was protected speech that could not be censored, Stewart wrote:

USCA wrote:I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

I would suppose the same definition goes for escapism.

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Post by eddie on Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:31 am

I think TV is like anything else, if you do it for too long or use it to simply avoid trying anything “new” then it’s just a lazy habit or a way of existing.

I think the point is this: if you don’t use your brain enough then you’re simply a vegetable in a hamster wheel. We are only here a short time so learn as much as you can, when you can. Take advantage of all the world has to offer...turn off the TV, shut the laptop down, get your nose out of books and live among people. Talk, experience, dance, listen...people, are where it’s at.

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Post by Original Quill on Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:58 am

eddie wrote:I think TV is like anything else, if you do it for too long or use it to simply avoid trying anything “new” then it’s just a lazy habit or a way of existing.

I think the point is this: if you don’t use your brain enough then you’re simply a vegetable in a hamster wheel.

Perfect advice for a righty.

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