What's Wrong With Television?

Rabbi Aron Moss

Question:

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?

Answer:

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.