Apr 132008

A lot of people in PD recommend limiting TV watching or even eliminating it all together. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that you do need to kick back every once in a while and I enjoy a good TV show as much as the next person but there’s certain kinds of shows I will not watch. So here are some reasons to reduce TV that I haven’t really seen elsewhere.

  • Above all, trust your own experience. I recommend a week-long media fast to help you to figure out whether this is a change you want to make.
  • You waste a ridiculous amount of time watching ads or channel surfing through ads. At one estimate it was at about 20 minutes of every hour of TV watching is ads. That’s a third of your time that you are giving over to people who want to sell you things. And even unconscious exposure can increase liking, so they are likely succeeding.
  • Watching TV violence does increase aggressiveness, and that does not necessarily mean physical aggression. Do you really want to submit those who you care about to aggression of any kind, including verbal, emotional or the obvious physical?
  • Television is fear-inducing. TV can influence you to be more afraid for your personal safety than you need to be. Watching violence on TV can influence how much violence you believe is in the real world, due to the availability heuristic. The availability heuristic is basically how we use the ease with which we can remember or imagine events to judge how likely or frequent they are. For example, estimate how many homicides will be committed in New York in 2008, a city of 19 million people? Do it. Unless you do it, we’re not moving this train. Ok? One estimate suggests 500 people. Were you off? Another thing is that it can affect how you feel about being personally assaulted. That is, more television violence can increase your own fear of being personally assaulted because you feel it is more likely to happen than it actually is (depending on where you live).
  • TV is not without ideologies as are most things and the constant messages about how to live your life may well be counter to what you might actually want to do. As an example, there’s an episode of Family Guy where Joe Swanson the paraplegic gets his legs back and promptly starts excersizing and becomes uber healthy. He also acts like a real jerk to his friends as if he’s better than them. He then ditches his friends and finds some new friends that like to excersize and enjoy life instead of sitting around drinking beer and watching TV. His friends, in retaliation (and understanding that their lives suck, it is alluded to in the show there), try to break his legs and eventually his wife ends up shooting him a bunch of times and at the end of the episode everything is back to normal. If that doesn’t sound like its promoting values antithetical to conscious development, I dunno what does. As soon as Joe does become better than the guys, he starts to act like a jerk? And even though he outgrows his friends, they drag him back down to their level, which they admit is a crappy level. It’s almost as if they can’t stand to be reminded that they do nothing with their lives and have to drag another person down to their level. Don’t worry, I don’t brutalize most TV shows like this, but this episode really struck me. Ask what your favourite shows stand for and what your favourite characters represent.

All that said, there are a few shows I love to watch, including House, MD, the Office, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

  One Response to “Even More Reasons to Limit TV Watching!”

  1. A couple of things to add to this post. First of all, Family Guy is intended as absurdist satire. Anyone who takes its messages seriously does need to turn off their TV, but most reasonable people understand this.

    Secondly, you argue that TV has the potential to be a negative influence on viewers because of its messages. If that argument is correct, the other side of the coin is that TV has the potential to portray positive messages and improve behaviour too. I personally believe that the impact that media has on people is fairly marginal, as most people are media savvy enough to see through it.

    You are right on with the 20min./hr of wasted time.

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