Monday, June 24, 2013

The Boob Tube May Be Making Idiots of us All

Sometimes, some things make me wonder if I'm really, truly living in the same world as others. We seem to be occupying the same planet, and likely even do many similar things like eating, drinking, taking our showers and getting on with our lives. This morning I read a post wherein the author was wondering "what the world was coming to" because apparently the Discovery Channel has a new show with gasp! naked people. AND, further horrors!, the show was on at seven or something and not late at night along with the lurid ads for Joe Francis's latest adventures in filming half-dressed drunken co-eds. 

Besides the fact that I often ask myself "why isn't Joe Francis in jail already?", I had to wonder how capable the author of the post in question feels in their everyday life. Do things like having the newspaper not make it to the porch utterly stymie their day? I mean, of all the meaningless bullshit on television, this is what they choose to get upset about? Naked people? Not stupid mean people, stupid diva petty behavior, not toddlers being taught to act like trash by their personality-disordered stage mothers, not the super-violent shows featuring the undead....

nope, the real problem is the naked people.

Palm, meet face. 

The real problem is that people are getting dumber by the day, some of us. I'm sorry to say it, but if you have to go and lament that there are naked people on television and think of this as a cataclysmic event, life is going to be very hard for you going forward. We do this magical thing in our house where, when we don't like what we see on tv-- we do this thing called 'turning the television off'. I didn't even have to go to school for it or go online to find out how to accomplish this. No "DIY:Power to Choose What You Watch, if You Even Want to Watch Anything at All". 

I am feeling so capable this morning! Really! 

Apparently, though, someone else had lots of concerns too. What about the kids with televisions in their rooms? 

Well, what about them? Besides the fact that kids don't need a tv in their rooms?

Besides the fact that there are parental controls which one can avail themselves of?

Besides the fact that someone was dreaming their way through life, thinking that the tv stations were only going to display anything of questionable content after 9 pm. Are you for real? 

When did we get so clueless that we expected the television and cable stations to care about us? Our kids? That they deliberated, thoughtfully and sensitively,  about when their programming would be on and who it would affect? If this is truly the state of things--and I don't think it is on a wide spectrum, or we are all in trouble--we have become thoughtlessly and incredibly dependent on others to think for us. Frighteningly dependent.

That, to me, is far scarier than naked people on my television. Which isn't scary or upsetting to me, but kind of a waste of my time. If I want to see a naked person, we do have a full-length mirror. What's scary to me is how we teach our families and selves to be dependent on being entertained at all time, no matter how mediocre or craptastic the so-called 'entertainment'. Yesterday I saw a father at the pub with a toddler child; he bought the child a small bag of potato chips and then set an iPhone in front of her so she could watch an inane video of a cartoon girl smiling. 

Did Dad talk to her? No. Did he play with his little girl? No. He sat alone, she stayed in the stroller, and he drank his beer and didn't talk to her. The iPhone was his proxy parent. I felt sad for the kid, really. I remember Kiddo being this age, I'd lift him up and let him watch the flashing lights of the elephants dancing on the Delirium Tremens beer sign and giggle "look at the dancing elephants", dancing with him and singing a little tune. We looked at the tap handles on the wall, talked about the animals on them. "Oh, look at that big polar bear" or "See? There's a black doggie." We packed board books. Now he's six, but still points out the 'dancing elephants'. Yesterday, Joe and I were having our beers and writing/drawing a story with Kiddo about "Fang Friend", a buddy he'd imagined in the form of a two-headed snake and likes to make up stories about. As I saw this younger father ignoring his child, I did have a moment of fear that with all the new technologies, people are going to begin to park their kids in front of little televisions everywhere they go and they will feel that this is an acceptable way of parenting

Kinda-sorta reminds me of Huxley's "Brave New World" where humans are created in scientific ways, gestating in glass jars and raised up by screens instead of parents. Just in case you haven't read it, things don't end well for the one  human who can think for himself. Pretty sad, but we are somewhat recreating that dynamic when we keep shoving screens at our kids instead of engaging with them, helping them solve their problem, work through their boredom, learn how to be patient while waiting, learn how to plan ahead and bring a book or activity along.... instead of relying on pocket tv.

I don't want to live in a nation where we all wring our hands because we feel powerless when the tv does something bad, because we are incapable of getting off our butts, turning off the channel and finding something else to do. How passive and helpless do we have to be, really? How many other options does that person have, so that they don't need to waste time and energy being upset about this one? How we teach and guide our children when it comes to being self-reliant and keeping themselves busy will have a lot to do with how they choose to parent the next generations. How we teach them to be choosy about their media choices-- and how much they engage with media versus the real life will have a very significant impact on how we do as a nation in the future.  

We are pushing our children away from us, routinely, before they are at a developmental stage of desiring this separation. That, I think, is one of our worst mistakes we are making. The fallout of that can't be good, either. As the child seeks their parent's attention and is instead handed a device, what we are saying is "watch this, not me".  So I guess we need to be very, very careful about what they are watching, huh?

Or maybe we just need to think for ourselves and turn the boob tube off.