The ‘boob tube’ offers no nourishment

You’re on these great drugs when all of a sudden a frying pan appears before you. A disembodied voice announces, “This is your television.” Then a raw egg drops into the pan with a sizzle. “And this is your brain on television.”
This is an important message. A rare reversal of roles has your drugs warning you of the dangers of television addiction. Beware, this apparently harmless and legal device has the power to render its users catatonic for hours at a time. It is a vice that swallows three hours and 46 minutes of an average American’s time every day. My TI-85 graphing calculator tells me that when Mr. and Mrs. Average live to be 65 years old they will have spent an entire decade watching TV.
It’s time to take a step back and determine what we televisioneers gain from this. What fantastic aspect of TV makes us willing to relinquish such a large portion of our time on Earth? After considering this question for a great deal of time, I have come to the regrettable conclusion that humans watch a lot of TV only because it is extremely addictive. In contrast to activities such as sleeping or eating, television has little benefit, and may even hurt other aspects of our life. In this regard, watching television resembles drug abuse.
Consider your local bar. Why are TVs so common there? So many of my otherwise merry outings have been marred by one or even multiple screens flashing in the periphery. In every instance my companions in thirst are thousandfold more interesting than ESPN highlights (well, almost every instance). Yet without fail my eyes are helplessly diverted toward the latter. The fact that my better judgment succumbs to the numbing barrage of words and faces serves to illustrate the addictive powers of those screens.
But I don’t mean to get carried away; it is neither beneficial nor honest to declare television a complete waste of time. Who can deny being genuinely entertained by classic shows like “MASH,” “Cheers,” “Seinfeld” or, of course, “The Simpsons”? There is no reason a well-crafted sitcom cannot establish a meaningful connection between creator and observer the way a good concert or book does. And there is no reason that the occasional TV show should detract from one’s lifestyle.
Unfortunately, most of what is shown on TV doesn’t deserve utterance in the same breath as the aforementioned programs. First, roughly eight minutes out of every half-hour are strictly commercials. A commercial is 30 seconds of sounds and images designed for the dual purpose of publicizing a product and impregnating the viewer with the desire to unnecessarily spend money. Evidence of the latter purpose can be inferred from the large amount of commercial content having little or nothing to do with the product being endorsed. What does a human television watcher gain from this? It is probably safe to assume that consumerism does not need to be further promoted in this country the way it is now on TV.
Perhaps even more deserving of criticism are what come between the commercials: shows. The miraculously low standards television stations hold to their programming first occurred to me during a childhood incident. I’ll jump to the middle of the story, when I find myself trapped in bed, unable to move from neck pain with the TV on in front of me. Only after being subject to a pair of appallingly slapdash soap operas and an episode of “Police Woman” was I able to get up and shut off my tormentor.
Since then many other disreputable aspects of television have been brought to my attention. Think about the laugh track, which serves to fool the audience into thinking something is funny. The preponderance of good-looking people, while pleasing to watch, also helps the viewer forget the meaninglessness of their activity. And while 30 seconds is more than enough time to advertise a product, the misnamed “infomercial” defies all trends of human nature by carrying on for an unbelievable 30 minutes of shameless carnival barking. The list goes on.
A total elimination of television is far from what I am suggesting — and also far from reality. It is the duty of no one to restrict how another spends his or her time. If falling asleep in front of the boob tube with Mr. and Mrs. Average is what makes you happy, then you’re in luck. Television is legal, free and widespread. But if you’re like me, you’ve noticed the discrepancy between the time invested in watching a few shows and the benefits reaped. You’ve been disappointed, more often than not, with the half dozen chuckles you got in return for your half hour. You’ve become less irritated with the Volvo driver whose bumper sticker advocates televicide. If you’re like me, you don’t want your brain over easy.
To those people, I say forget what the Averages are up to. What you need to do is reach behind that box, grab the cord and yank it right out of the wall socket. That usually does the trick.
Karl Roe is a Institute of Technology senior. He welcomes comments to [email protected]