'We call man a gentle animal;
and, if nature has been kind to him
and his education has been right,
he is the most gently and god-like of creatures.
But if his education is inadequate or bad,
he becomes the most savage of all the products of the earth.'
Television seems to have taken a major part of the entertainment business, and a major part of our time and life. There was a time when watching TV was a luxury, which only a few could afford, and now, even a poor household is glued to a TV set. Whether this indicates advancement or dependence, it is an issue to be thought about. It is difficult to explain to all something that appears a normal and regular part of their life. That is why it becomes difficult to make people see and think what TV viewing has landed them into.
The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.
To confess a fault freely is the next thing to be innocent of it.
I think it is high time that we took a moment to think about what TV has done to us. How its fever is gripping each one of us and has affected our lives; molded our personalities. The implications of TV are not free from being beneficial as well as adverse. As can be understood, the TV itself is not faulty but its contents and usage make it so.
Just visualize this general scenario. A baby in a family gets familiar with the TV screen since his birth. As it grows up, so is its attraction to this idiot box. The kid seems to be staring at it like anything and we keep on telling it not to do that. The child grows up seeing his elders watching TV with deep interest and precision and develops a similar interest. But then the mother scolds and spanks the child for watching it, as it is not good for small children or their eyesight (what a concern!). The child is confused-' How is it that the elders can watch it all the time and I can't? If it is bad, it should be so for all. This is not fair!' Yes, I agree, not at all fair.
Gradually, the child is allowed to watch selective and safe programs-like cartoons and kid stuff! A good start! Well, the child is glued to his own set of programs and won't budge a bit from them. The conflict arises when the grown ups and the children have to watch their programs at the same time. Now, that starts the family war. Who should give in? If the family has another set of TV, good for both. Send the child to the other room and enjoy your program. If not, then the trouble is there. Well, no worries! Start the same old talk-'It is not good for kids to watch TV all the time. Go and study.' What an escape! At other times, if the child seems to be bothering you with his talk or actions, switch on the TV for him and the headache is gone. What a darling the TV is! How supportive and convenient! Now that elders are not always at home and nor can they keep an eye all the time on what the children are watching, the child is free to flip the channels and watch what fascinates him more. And what does he see? Variety indeed! Funny cartoons, jumping animals, disturbing violence, cheap songs, advertisements, family dramas, Qur'an recitation, movies, news broadcast and so on. The choice is his. If he desires he can imbibe all the world's knowledge or witness the filth and obscenity that has gripped the modern life and entertainment world.
OK! The scenario is over and now comes the implication part. The kids are becoming too inquisitive and informed about all things around them-good as well as bad, the beauty as well as the ugliness of life. They are aware about issues that their minds are yet raw to understand and grasp in the right manner and essence. Then TV also brings about some sort of embarrassment or awkwardness at times for the adults. It consumes the precious time of a person, leaving no time for family talks, reading, thinking, get together, chats, etc. When the program is a regular one, like the daily soaps, people plan the whole thing accordingly. We have grown accustomed to planning our time around what show is on at what time. Even if you are not physically watching TV, it just goes on playing in your mind. Mentally you are with it most of the time. Television has become a psychological refuge for many. It presents a fantasized and dramatic world that one desires or believes in. A world full of handsome men and women, and symbols of apparently good life- money, fortune, success, glitter, beauty! It has become an obsession, a habit and an addiction. Yes, an addiction that refuses to go. The question is, can an addiction to television be destructive? The answer by science is a "Yes!"
The societal impact is also there which leads to a cultural cost to the country. The entertainment industry is a vehicle for ideas. It has evolved into a medium transmitting thoughts across people and the world at large. It is taking the lead in promoting products, services, ideas and trends. Countries are competing to take a lead in vulgarity and obscenity in films, advertisements or serials. Times have changed drastically for the film industry as well as the TV industry, which is following suit. The portrayal of characters and life is cheap and unrealistic. Music and movie channels are showing filthy programs and vulgarity all the time. Rather than educating, it is disillusioning people and retarding their thought process.
The influence is such that people are more concerned about the characters in the dramas and movies than their family members or relatives. Television shows have become more important than socializing with family and friends. The dramas and movies seem to have gripped their mental faculty, arrested their thought process and deviated them from the real life. Except for the occasional news and documentaries, evening television is the average man's view of the world. A less percentage of the masses watch sensible programs like news, documentaries and informative serials. The vast majority doesn't budge from Star Plus, Zee TV, Zee Cinema, B4U and other nonsensical channels. And such channels are increasing in number. There is a constant transition between the programming and the advertisements, which has lead to a numbness that has desensitized and confused the viewers. We seem to spend a major part of our lives in viewing false realities, exaggerated violence, misguided truths, and boastful commercial promises. Whether TV reflects the social trends and evolving culture or it is the other way round, TV content is becoming pathetic. Unconsciously, people are becoming slaves of the TV in every sense of the word.
If you think this is an exaggeration, believe me, you are mistaken. There is a wide concern among people as to what is happening to their children. Some say that their children cry when they are not allowed to watch their favorite television show. A study stated that television consumption wastes more than 4 hours of our day and 13 years of our lives on an average. One could do so much with that wasted time! There is neurological evidence to prove that television is an addictive opiate and one of the most dangerous mind control devices ever produced. When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left to the right hemisphere. In fact, experiments conducted by researcher Herbert Krugman showed that while viewers are watching television, the right hemisphere is twice as active as the left, a neurological anomaly that releases the body's natural opiates ' endorphins, which are usually habit-forming.
An article from South Africa's Eastern Province Herald (1975) described two experiments in which people from various social backgrounds were asked to stop watching television. The result was that some gave in after one week, and the others suffered from depression on losing their 'friend'. None could resist longer than six months, and over time they showed withdrawal symptoms- increased anxiety, frustration, and depression. Research shows that while watching TV, the brain treats incoming data uncritically, leading to emotional rather than intelligent responses. Hence the revelation by researcher Jacob Jacoby that 90% of the research target misunderstood what they watched on television. Recent surveys have shown that 75% of American women think they are overweight, likely the result of watching thin actresses and models daily. Besides that, obesity, sleep deprivation, and stunted sensory development are all common among television addicts.
As with other things, there are advantages of watching TV that cannot be ignored. One can get educated and knowledgeable through informative channels like Discovery (though the regional or local versions seems Greek to us!), National Geographic, History, Animal Planet, QTV, NDTV, CNN, etc. Though one can really gain a vast amount of information and knowledge through TV but there are strings attached to it. Such channels don't have ardent and loyal viewers like the other common channels. People are tempted to watch other channels as well. This is a fact that needs to be admitted and addressed.
So, what about the solution? To uproot the whole problem, don't buy a TV set. As is said:
'It is easier to suppress the first desire
than to satisfy all that follow it.'
This could be the best option ideally. But the problem is 'what to do with the idiot box that is already there? One option is to throw the TV sets in the trashcan. Not practical! Another is to disable the cable connection and be content with the national and local channel. Mercy upon those viewers! Jokes apart, as this problem is a part of the western world too, a family out there discarded the cable connection. The fact that no one died of boredom, the children stopped complaining, family members found more time to talk with each other, rediscovered reading for pleasure, and games for enjoyment. It has been a blessing for them to rediscover what they were missing all the time. It was a simple way to grow stronger bonds with the family.
Yet another option could be to develop a strict sense of self-discipline and self-control on watching TV. Not easy! Generally, it should have been the Communications and Broadcasting authorities to regulate the program content at least on TV if not the entire Entertainment Industry and solve this problem for us to some extent. But as with other issues, they are lethargic and unconcerned. So we will continue to look for our own solutions. What about selective channel viewing? Ever heard of 'What makes people unhappy is not too little choice but too much'? It applies here. It could prevent viewing undesirable or indecent material to a great extent. Subscribers can ask for selective channels and pay accordingly. Cable services can be provided in tiers or categories for which the cable operator charges a separate rate. The cable TV operators have not yet implemented this system here, though it should have been given highest priority. Better than the rest I suppose! But till this happens to our part of the world, we have to resort to the other options.
What is important is to be conscious of the fact that excess of everything is bad and this applies to watching TV too. Not only 'how much' but 'what' you watch, that too is important. We need to safeguard our homes, culture and expression in the face of globalization, competition, and the power of dominant unseen forces. We need to come out of the distraction and experience life meaningfully.