Look At Me!
Is it possible?!
Have you heard those statements before:
- I feel hypnotized when I watch television.”
- “Television sucks my energy.”
- “I feel like it’s brainwashing me.”
- “I feel like a vegetable when I’m stuck there at the tube.”
- “Television spaces me out.”
- “My kids look like zombies when they’re watching.”
- “I feel mesmerized by it.”
- “If a television is on, I just can’t keep my eyes off it.”
Anyone who has spent time watching television should agree with some, if not all, of these statements.
“Often the people who described themselves as ‘spaced out’ liked the experience. They said it helped them forget about their otherwise too busy lives, while Others found it ‘relaxing,’ saying that it helped them ‘forget about the world.’ Some who used terms like ‘brainwashed’ or ‘addicted’ nonetheless felt that television provided them with good information or entertainment, although there was no one who felt television lived up to its ‘potential.'”
Television is still a passive medium — one that requires the watcher to remain silent and still. Unlike any other leisure time activity, watching TV is completely physically passive. (The only other comparison would be going to watch a movie, however one must actually travel to the theater, and buy a ticket, popcorn, etc. Going to watch a movie is an actual experience or event unlike watching TV, whose hours and hours of inactivity blend into each other.) The inactive nature of TV viewing creates in interesting psychological paradox – the more people watch, the worse they feel and, in turn, the more they watch.
What is more surprising is that the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue. Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading. After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood. After watching TV, people’s moods are about the same or worse than before.
“Thus, the irony of TV: people watch a great deal longer than they plan to, even though prolonged viewing is less rewarding. In our ESM studies the longer people sat in front of the set, the less satisfaction they said they derived from it. When signaled, heavy viewers (those who consistently watch more than four hours a day) tended to report on their ESM sheets that they enjoy TV less than light viewers did (less than two hours a day).”
In a paper entitled “Television Dependence, Diagnosis, and Prevention,” Professor Kubey describes a cyclical effect of watching television. Heavy TV watchers tend to be people who feel anxious or lonely and watching TV provides a break from negative thoughts or ruminations. Providing a pseudo-social media experience, the television creates a virtual connection between the watcher and other people, however this does nothing to help the real feelings of loneliness or boredom.
Kubey explains that “the possibility of a vicious circle wherein the experience of negative moods and thoughts when alone and when unstructured may interact with the ease with which people can quickly escape these feelings by viewing. As a result of many hours spent viewing television over many years, some people may become unpracticed in spending time alone, entertaining themselves, or even in directing their own attention.”
Watching TV can never be a true substitute for real-life experiences. Kubey explains that his research shows that heavy viewers get trapped watching TV. “In short, a television viewing habit may be self-perpetuating,” writes Kubey. “Viewing may lead to more viewing and may elicit what has been called ‘attentional inertia,’ i.e., ‘the longer people look at television, the greater is the probability that they will continue to look.’ Discomfort in noncommitted, or solitary time, can lead to viewing, but after years of such behavior and a thousand hours or more of viewing each year, it seems quite possible that an ingrained television habit could cause some people to feel uncomfortable when left with ‘nothing to do,’ or alone, and not viewing.”
Kubey’s conclusion makes perfect logical sense. Television watching is not an “experience” but instead it replaces experiences. So TV watchers exchange the real world for the virtual one behind the screen. The cultural pressure and acceptance of heavy TV watching combined with the habitual nature of the medium can produce an unholy marriage between one’s inactivity and boredom.
Television’s mighty grasp on the eyeballs of the viewer is partly due to the human body’s inability to react to the transmitted programming. Images from the glowing, pulsing TV screen are simulating, however the nature of the medium does not permit the body to respond appropriately. The body wants to react to the barrage of images, but cannot. This sensory disorientation – the TV watcher is visually and aurally simulated while remaining physically passive – confuses the mind. These conflicting messages and feelings succeed in creating an almost hypnotic trance in the viewer.
~A spoken word is a moment. A written word is eternal~