A Real Turn-Off

tvSo a new Nielson poll has determined that the average American household has a television on for 8 hours and 18 minutes a day. That’s nearly 8 1/2 hours! No wonder nearly 60 million Americans voted for a ticket that included Sarah Palin. No, wait, that was a low blow. But nonetheless we’re becoming a country of people whose brains are rapidly turning to mush.

In 2007 an AP poll determined that 1 in 4 Americans read no books in a given year. Zero. Nil. The average American claims to read four books a year. Claims. In fairness, that includes the 25% who don’t read any books. Among readers, the average jumps to 7 books a year. No word on whether that includes reading “Hop on Pop” to your three-year-old.

But it’s the TV thing that really gets me. I’d go nuts if I had to watch that much in a given day. I’m not a TV nazi or anything. We have two of them and I enjoy the occasional Law and Order or “Brit Com” or my favorite show by far The Office. It’s really sports that I care to sit down and watch for any length of time. Sunday afternoon with a football game and a bowlful of popcorn is perfect. Tuning in to watch baseball after a tough day at the office is a beautiful thing.

At a certain point TV poses a spiritual challenge. I’m not even going to get into the content — I’m purely referring to the noise. Whether it’s just having The Today Show as background noise or intently watching Judge Judy, the lack of silence can be deafening. It’s hard to hear that “still, small voice within” that is God when it’s competing with that loud, large voice from without that is the television.

I’m not big into New Year’s resolutions — I tend to save these for Lent. But if you’re watching 8 hours and 18 minutes of TV a day it might be worth cutting down. Of course if you are, you’re probably not reading this.


3 Comments on “A Real Turn-Off”

  1. Father Tim says:

    This comes from Chris Martin who left these comments on Facebook regarding this post:

    I must admit, that given no pressure to complete projects require devoted attention, I will typically pop on the tube. Especially since I’ve acquired almost 100 channels in HD, argh, arghhh, ARGGGGHHH!

    But I must respectfully take issue with my good friend’s blog in this case – and that is disregarding Tim (and admittedly a percentage of the … Read Morepopulation tipped toward a rock star political outlook… WHAT? CAROLINE KENNEDY?).

    I do not subscribe to the old school philosophy of more books read = higher intellect. To my own effacement, I am one who has trouble concentrating enough to sit down and read. Cognitive, emotional, or chemical – I welcome the potshots. Far from being a conformist, I see this opinion as similar to the tired “early to bed, early to rise” mantra. Frankly, I work better later in the day into the evening. But I digress.

    I am continually and absolutely disgusted at some of the rags in tabloid that people gobble up. I can’t go a single DAY past the spawning of some new beautiful Hollywood “jesus” figure without knowing the name, weight, and deep spiritual meaning of the given name of the kid. I’ve tried to hold out, but it’s futile. Although I can fend off the … Read Moretabloids, I’ll still be hit by even reputable newspapers.

    Many books that are read these days are fictional novels based loosely on historical fact, and give intellectual aspirations to those who now believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were part of some Vatican Mafia. Granted, a little embellishment makes for very interesting reading, but because it’s in print does not make it “smarter.”

    So, I’ve learned more on how to survive in the wild, how my cell phone works, more about John Adams than I ever knew, how my sausage is made (could have done without that), that beer goggles are plausible, about the background of the current Thai political strife, why you can’t just slap a great steak in a typical consumer oven and expect steakhouse quality – and more importantly – how you can. I’m not ashamed, and I stand up for my TV-watching brethren. That is, unless you’re watching TMZ.

    Either way, method of ingestion of the media is not the issue. It’s the media ingested.

  2. Father Tim says:

    Great stuff, Chris. And looking back over my initial post I can see how it might TV per day is beyond “veg.” It’s approaching vegetable. And I don’t care if it’s 8 hours of C-Span either.

    Whether you’d call it such or not, you have an intellectual curiosity that transcends books. You like to know how things work so you roll up your sleeves and take it apart. I can’t do that — well I could, but I’d never be able to put it back together again. I’d go read a book instead. So some of this is presumably personality-driven.

    But I also think it’s cultural. In many circles books are seen as an anachronism; something quaint. People get their information from the web; from Google; from blogs. There will always be a market for books (I hope) but it’s shrinking. It parallels newspapers in that regard. Some try to combine the two and you get the Kindle — but who’s buying them? “Old people.”

    So thanks for raising this — I hope we get some comments. I have to go to bed now so I can rise early.

  3. Chris Martin says:

    Don’t get me wrong, Rev: I love to go to the bookstore and browse around, too. And I’ve got quite a few classics on my list, too. BTW – I’ve read the requisite 4 this past year. Cracked 10. Finished 4.

    But I think you’ve hit it – books DO allow more imagination, and possibly contribute to some concentration skills that may be weak in me. And I predict that in the future, TV viewing will go up – but not necessarily to our detriment. It’s also important that reading does not become the inverse.

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