“But it is much later in the game now, and ignorance of the score is inexcusable. To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple.”
-Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business”
For 19 days, I’ve been on a television fast. For the first 11 of those days, I watched no television whatsoever. On the 12th day, I couldn’t help myself and had to watch five minutes of the morning weather forecast (I could have gotten it somewhere else, like my smartphone or computer).
Since then—a week ago, Thursday—I haven’t turned either one of our two televisions on. Neither has my wife.
Each evening, after dinner—a time when our television would always be on for two or three hours until we decided to go to bed, Mary and I have been reading. We are both avid readers, but without the television, even more reading is taking place. So are conversations that don’t have to compete with the 32 inch flat screen.
It was Neil Postman (quoted above) who helped me see how television had reshaped American culture when I read his classic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, quoted from at the top. Postman wrote it in 1984, which seems like eons ago. He wrote it pre-Internet, pre-social media, and prior to projected images available on our smartphones. I wonder what Postman would think/write today were he still alive?
This decision to stop watching television by Mary and me wasn’t high-minded, or morally-derived. It was simple, really. We happened to be taking a short vacation beginning Labor Day at a coastal inn that didn’t have television in the rooms. I’m not sure why they don’t, but it seemed like a good thing and we didn’t miss it. We haven’t really missed it since we’ve been back home and back to work.
Last night, after a medical procedure on her banged up hip at our favorite osteopath and physiatrist, Mary told me after dinner, “I think I’m going to watch some television.”
“Okay. I’m planning to read,” I said. The television didn’t get turned on.
I’m not sure how long this is going to last. I’m sure I’ll be watching television again at some point. We do have Turner Classic Movies on our cable and seeing one of the great films from the past is always enjoyable, especially on a Saturday night, introduced by Robert Osborne.
Of course, after 19 days, the urge to flick the flat screen back on isn’t as strong as it was after 11 days. I’m thinking it lessens even more over time.