In This Edition:
1. Groundhogs and Such
2. Does TV Have our Culture in a Choke Hold?
3. It’s OK Not To Keep Up, Really!
4. A Ten-Step Plan for Overcoming Electronic Addiction
5. Some Parting Humor…
Groundhogs and Such
A month in to the new year and the snows keep coming. Where is that groundhog and his shadow when you need them? Oh well, there is always college basketball for those wicked winter nights…
Does TV Have our Culture in a Choke Hold?
Despite your denial, chances are you’re watching more television than last year at this time. Or your combined TV and Web surfing time easily exceeds last year and the year before. The average person now spends more than eight solid years watching electronically how other people supposedly live. Twenty years ago three major television networks dominated television — ABC, NBC and CBS. Today there are more than 500 full-power independent television stations.
Electronic Compression — You may not have realized that the average TV scene change in a situation comedy or drama is 3.5 seconds — take out your stopwatch some evening. The media moguls discovered that at that rate, you have to pay attention or you can’t keep up.
TV commercials followed suit and added rock music backdrops, more skits, less straight pitch, and more image creation. In fact, television commercials of five, ten, and fifteen-second lengths have largely replaced 30 and 60 second commercials.
Studies show that short commercials can be equally as effective as long ones. So, we are exposed to more penetrating messages in the same interval, if of course, we don’t use the channel changer to flip around and pick-up 10 or 20 other non-related images and information tidbits such as lurid Superbowl half time shows.
The impact of the messages is subtle but powerful. Increasingly, individual preferences and standards yield to media imposed values — a kind of mass “keeping up with the Joneses.” When you want what others have, you work harder and believe you need to earn more money before feeling you have “made it.”
What’s Next? — A growing world population, electronically linked by an increasingly strong media industry, ensures that a news and information explosion will continue to spread. As more population-related issues, information items, and media reports compete for your attention, invariably you will be unable to keep pace.
If the amount of time you devote to radio, television, and the Internet remains about the same each day for the rest of your life, you will be informed of an increasing number of compelling new issues, social injustices, worthy causes, and late-breaking events, all of which will compete for your attention. Though your quest to ingest such reports may be worthy, you likely will not be able to actually sort or apply more than a few scraps of what you take in, and you will never be able to “keep up.”
Now and then I think that if I pay close attention to the mass media shower, some kind of grand order will emerge that puts everything in context. Then I read about Albert Einstein, who toiled to derive a unified theory of the universe towards the end of his career, but did not. Likewise, to conclude his brilliant trilogy, Alvin Toffler attempted to develop a social model in Powershift to predict where we’re all heading, but did not.
With the affairs of humankind, there may or may not be some larger order. If there is, it’s unlikely you will grasp it by ingesting the mass media barrage. What’s dangerous is that with its sensationalized trivia, the mass media over glut ultimately obscures fundamental issues that do merit the concern of individuals globally, such as preserving the environment. Meanwhile, broadcasts themselves regularly imply that it is uncivil or immoral not to tune into the daily news — “all the news you need to know,” and “we won’t keep you waiting for the latest . . .”
It’s OK Not To Keep Up, Really!
It is not immoral to not “keep up” with the news that is offered. However, to “tune out” and turn your back on the world is not appropriate either. Being more selective in what you give your attention to, and to how long you give it, makes more sense.
There is little utility in intellectually resonating with the world’s challenges and problems. Pick one cause or one issue, and take some kind of action outside your home. Action is customarily invigorating. Your ability to make a real, if minute, difference will immediately lessen your concerns about the state of the world.
A Ten-Step Plan For Overcoming Electronic Addiction
If you’d like to wean yourself of too much media, here’s a plan that pays great benefits:
[ ] Go one weekend without turning on a radio or television. (You can do it!)
[ ] Call your friends both locally and out of town one evening per week instead of watching any television.
[ ] Spend time on hobbies such as coin or stamp collecting, gardening, or word games one other weeknight, rather than watching TV.
[ ] Allow yourself to selectively watch two hours of programming each Saturday and Sunday for one month.
[ ] Permit yourself one high quality video per weekend during another month. The video must inspire, inform, reflect history, be biographical, or be otherwise socially redeeming. Stop watching “shoot-em-ups,” chase scenes, and films that titillate but add little to your life.
[ ] If you walk or jog with a Walkman or cell phone, undertake these exercises three times in a row without such devices.
[ ] Recognize that rightly or wrongly, you’ve been programmed since birth to tune in to electronic media for news and information, entertainment, and diversion. This is far from your only option.
[ ] Look for others seeking to wean themselves from electronics. Is there a book discussion group? How about a bowling league, outing club, or biking group?
[ ] Attend sporting events rather than viewing the same type of event on television. Watching a good high school baseball team or women’s collegiate tennis can be as rewarding as watching major league baseball or Wimbledon, respectively. And you actually support the athletes in a visible way–being there.
[ ] Recognize that the number of CDs, DVDs, computer games, and other electronic items competing for your attention exceeds the time you have in life to pay attention to them.
Some Parting Humor…
Here are ten oxymorons for our times:
1. Microsoft Works
2. advanced basic
3. good grief
4. sanitary landfill
5. legally drunk
6. small crowd
7. soft rock
8. tight slacks
9. working vacation
10. Qualified expert