Monday, October 19, 2009

Do We Become What We Watch on TV?

I must lead a very sheltered life.

While in Washington, I've been staying with my good friend Dusty. (We've know each other since we were 5 years old.)

I love the sights and sounds of the city. Washington DC is a familiar urban space - I lived here for 8 years in the late 80's and early 90's - and even thought it's been raining constantly up until today, this trip has been uplifting for the mind and soul.

But one aspect of this trip has been a bit jarring: cable TV. Dusty, like most Americans, has the latest in television hardware in almost every room along with the requisite 100+ channels.

Admittedly, I don't watch much television. In fact, when the country went digital, Vickie and I opted not to get a conversion box, so technically we're TV free, although we do occasionally access certain programs on the Internet. (Our favorites are the new series Glee, the Office, and Vickie's favorite from Germany - Lindenstrasse.)

Normally the sounds around our home and my office range from quiet (which I love) to classical music to NPR news and talk programming. I hear statistics about how the "average American" watches 6 -8 hours of TV a day (which seems impossible as most people spend a good bit of time at their job or sleeping). Over the past few days, I've been getting a big dose of average America with Dusty's roommate's television-watching habits. As Dusty puts it, Joe has the TV on all the time.

Since I had access to a TV, I decided to flip around and see what I've been missing. I was surprised, shocked actually, to find such a high level of violence and negativity, not just on one channel, but on almost every channel. This morning, for instance, rapid-fire gunshots, tires screeching, screams, yelling, and glass shattering were the predominant (loud) sounds emanating from the wide-screen.

Am I the only one who finds this abrasive? It hit me right in the solar plexus in a constant barrage of energetic stabbing. I asked him if he found this kind of programming harsh. Desensitized to it all, he was bewildered by my question.

Is this what most people in America take in every day?

A friend of a friend from Germany made the comment once that he didn't understand why we Americans banned beautiful naked bodies from TV but murders and mayhem were the norm. "Shouldn't it be the opposite?" he inquired.

No wonder we're such a violent society.

I must lead a very sheltered life. Thank God.

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