Saturday, October 10, 2015

In defence of watching television

We used to jokingly called the TV "the mindless tool of the devil" in our house when I was a teenager.

All jokes aside, I have always known that the proper approach to television watching is to consider it at best a waste of time and at worst a sin. So, one should only watch when one has finished everything else and when it is a program of some intellectual value. Of course, because one can never claim to have finished everything else, watching TV justifiably can only be done when you are either too ill to read or have some very commendable task like ironing to do at the same time.  Rather sucks all the fun out it, don't you think?  We might add, that you are also required by this view to hold in some awe those folk that refuse to even have a television in their living room and speak of them with great admiration, all the while knowing you shall never quite measure up because you couldn't bear yourself to be so permanently parted from the idiot box.

However, I have lost my adolescent guilt in relation to television.  It can be an excellent thing.  It is at times gross and base but at other times a wonder and a blessing.  To be taken in moderation and with discernment but nevertheless to be enjoyed.

Recently, I've been thinking about television again in terms of family life. Twenty years ago, I would have looked down my nose at the idea of a warm family evening gathered around the TV for a reality show.  Surely that kind of mindless activity represents the deplorable absence of proper family communication and interaction!

I thought that...until something worse arrived: wifi.

Wifi allows us all to hunker down with a device - individually.  If sitting around the TV inhibits family communication, wifi and portable devices threaten the complete annihilation of shared family experiences.  You can all choose your own entertainment. And, in a trick of the mind, it can even seems more virtuous than TV watching - off I go to research the proper way to teach children to read for an hour, on my own, without a child in sight. But I'm doing something meaningful - not just watching TV - so that's okay.  Meanwhile, my husband has loaded up something else and is glued to a screen of his own. I have this terrible vision of dinner finishing and five people going off in five different directions to spend the next two to three hours in a voluntary isolation inflicted by their own entertainment.

In comparison, when you watch MasterRenovationBee together, you at least share an experience. You discuss the outcomes, the drama, the tackiness and the ad breaks. We actually have a lot of conversation going on when we watch (and a lot of saying "shhhhhhh" sometimes) and it's an opportunity to help the younger viewers understand media.  It's great when you hear a kid say, "Mum, that's not real is it? He would have been paid to say that was good."  Yes, darling, now you're getting the hang of it.

So here's to watching TV together.  Turns out it's not as bad as I thought it would be.  Things could be worse.


Caroline said...

This is something that we've particularly noticed now that our sons are young adults. Your "terrible vision" of everyone on their own devices is all too real once your kids get older. And, obviously we don't expect them to spend all their time together, but it is good to spend some time together in the evenings in front of the TV. And I was one of those who severely limited it when they were younger.

Deb said...

@ Caroline: Yep, it's nice to be together doing nothing sometimes.