What's Wrong With Television?
Jul 03, '05
Rabbi, I overhead you telling someone that you do not own a television set. I
have to say I was quite surprised. Aren't you a bit cut off from reality? How do
you know what's going on in the world without a TV in the house?
In fact, if anything I would say that TV cuts you off from reality. Whatever you
are watching, whether it's the news or entertainment, you are missing out on
what's going on in the real world. The news is a distortion of what's going on
other people's lives, and the entertainment is a distraction from what's going
on in your life. It turns out that "Reality TV" is an oxymoron.
The TV news is simply reporting the facts - right? Wrong. It is only reporting
the facts that are visually captivating, will maintain the ratings, conform to
the prejudices of the station owners, and fit in to neat little segments - as if
there has never been a story too complicated to report in five minutes. At least
on the internet, I can choose from a wide spectrum of views, because unlike a TV
station, anyone can own a web site, whether rich or poor, right or left,
religious or secular. I can then decide what to believe, rather than someone
else doing that for me.
But it's not only the news that distances us from reality. Just as TV news
replaces the facts with a contrived opinion, TV entertainment replaces real
human interaction with somebody else's fantasies. Those who spend their hours
following soap operas are missing out on the days of the lives of their own
family and friends. The sit-com junkies are oblivious to the hilarity of
every-day living. And the fans glued to Reality TV are blind to the reality
happening in their own home.
Could it be that TV is the major cause of the relationships crisis we face
today? Apart from the time wasted in front of the box, there is a deeper effect
the media is having on our generation of TV addicts. So many people are
complaining that they can't find somebody to love. How often do we hear the
refrain, "I just can't find the right person", "I don't find anyone attractive
enough"? Well, to a couch potato, it's no wonder no one is good enough. Who can
compete with the beautiful, funny, interesting and witty characters that strut
the screens and fill their minds every night? How many people do you know who
fit TV's narrow definition of what is considered attractive? Of course no one
matches up - look who they're up against.
I feel more in touch with reality without a TV. You may not be ready to throw
yours out the window. But at least ensure that it is you that controls the
television, and not the reverse. Make sure you are not missing out on real
relationships in favour of imaginary friends. Life was not meant to be lived
only during commercial breaks.