On December 23rd 2010 the USA Today ran a story about the competitive status of the Major Networks verses the Cable franchises. The focus of the story was that of the programming on cable were over taking the viewer-ship of what where once the industry behemoths. However it was a side note in the story which grabbed my attention as there it was mentioned that Americans are now watching over 34 hours of television a week! Wow, that was almost as many hours a week as a typical work week!
To me this was a troublesome sign from several aspects, as how was it possible to have this much free time to devote for television and second what does this tell us “sociologically” about the direction of our society? The first question I believe lays within the “jobless” recovery we are seeing as unemployment remains high, as so does idle time remain in the same ratio on average. Thus with relatively low or no monies for other entertainment or occupation, TV as it has for years, stepped up as the universal filler of idle time with it’s mindless array of catatonic programming.
For clarity yes, I do watch TV, some TV that is an surely not 34 hours per week, as there is some value in television as a means of “messaging” as in the background as I write this is playing Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Solar System (via TiVO) which I am sharing with my grandson. However if we average in all the hours of Jerry Springer, Judge Judy and the bevy of like minded shows. It remains clear that televisions value as a mindless filler of time still remains the main driver of the medium, rather than an educational tool.
With this, the point is societal America is idling itself rather than taking advantage of this time to retool (skill wise) for it’s future challenges. Human capital is being idled, and as such will surely entropy as time moves on. In the age where the “medium” is the message TV still plays to large of a part as again life is lived within an equilibrium where there is only 24 in a day and 168 hours in a week. So if more time is being spent on TV, it has to come from somewhere, as in the past the Internet has been stealing hours from TV, is TV now stealing them back? Maybe America is loosing it’s ability to access the Information Super Highway, as jobs are lost and incomes slashed people can no longer afford the monthly fees? If so what does this tell us about our future? Lack of access to the largest economy in the world (the internet) would be devastating to our nation.
Sociologically I see us (as the American People) falling behind the rest of the world because of this mode of idling is stealing time from active pursuits. Don’t get me wrong, as I have nothing against entertainment or even “some” trash TV once and again as an educational tool to learn of the depths my fellow man will sink in order to get 15 minutes of fame on Jerry. However we only have so much time as that is what we are given to work with as well as the opportunity to make the most out of it what we will. So to waste it adding to an already excessive amount of boob-tube time with no more value then hydrogenated oils in over processed food, scares me even more.
What is the answer you ask? Well I am not going to say read a book as while a better pursuit then daytime TV and a needed activity there is more to life. America became a great nation based upon the abilities of it’s people to be both creative and productive. Thus the answer is to use the societal effluence given to us to further hone our abilities in these areas by creating “things”. Be it a written work like this blog or a piece of furniture, if one has the ability to create and or produce. They carry with them a unique power, as the American people over the past decades have grown into soft consumers rather than solid producers…