Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than at each
other – Ann Landers
Can a television cause divorce? Apparently it
“During my long marriage,” wrote one woman to an Internet site, “I
watched my dear husband come home every night and turn into a TV/sports zombie.
He never even bothered coming into the kitchen to chat with me, he certainly
never helped with cooking or prep, he ignored my attempts to get some time with
him, and he sometimes took ages to even come to the table because whatever was
on the tube was so interesting. TV killed my marriage, really.”
POSTING unsettled me for the reason that my husband and I had recently engaged
in, shall we say, animated debate about whether or not to install a television
in our new abode.
I hadn’t previously given the matter much thought,
assuming that we would transfer, perhaps upgrade, the unsatisfactory cable deal
we had in our old place.
Our TV was an old and bulky set, a far cry from
the elegant flat screens you now see in the stores, and a shiny 39-inch model
had already been purchased. It was leaning against the study wall, ready to be
put up in our new sitting room, when my husband announced that it had been
bought under duress and he absolutely, positively didn’t want a
“We don’t need a TV,” this self-confessed news junkie said
resolutely, calling himself an addict who had “to have the set on all the time.”
(And, indeed, I recalled arriving home in the old place to find the TV always
on, whether he was watching or not. It really got up my nose.) “It’s like being
an alcoholic,” he explained. “If it’s in the house, you go for it. But I
remember a period on my own when I found myself living without a TV for five or
six years, and I was much happier. I read more. I did more.
numbing,” he said earnestly. “It kills creativity.”
Using the four-letter
c-word to describe “most of what you get on TV,” he reminded me that we could
access all the news and comment we could possibly absorb on the computer, and a
lot more besides.
“Our life in this house will not gain anything from
having a TV,” he warned darkly.
FIGHTING WORDS; but I am no pushover, and
I can do earnest.
I took some of the wind out of his sails with a
declaration of my own: that I was willing to jettison cable – together with the
less than lovable companies that supply it – in favor of getting just the
Israeli channels through something called a digital terrestrial receiver that is
anyway part of our new TV.
And, I pointed out, we would be able to enjoy
some good films on a large screen via our DVD player; even, if we wanted, hook
the TV up to a laptop computer, which would broaden our movie-viewing
I could tell he wasn’t really on board, though his addiction
won’t find much of an outlet in the Israeli channels seeing that his Hebrew is
currently less than fluent. Reluctantly he observed the TV being affixed to the
wall, and his reaction wasn’t over-friendly.
“It looms,” he said, adding
that our smallish sitting area now gave the appearance of being set up solely
for the purpose of television-viewing. “The TV dominates,” he said.
I had to agree, and should add that I understood his objections to owning a
television, and in fact agreed with many of them.
The peace and calm of
our new Jerusalem surroundings, much more pastoral than our previous location,
made me feel as if I was on vacation. The last thing I wanted was to be assailed
by a flow of electronic jabber and chatter in the center of our living
And yet I think we will come to appreciate owning a television –
sans the seductive but often empty lure of cable.
At the same time, the
prospect of a 39-inch black rectangle glaring at us while we relax or entertain
guests is hardly my idea of gracious living. So I am working toward concealing
the TV when it is not in use. We will likely end up with some kind of enveloping
screen or pair of doors that hide the TV while blending in with the surrounding
My husband, essentially amiable and a good partner, is forcing
himself to reserve judgment (though I still catch the odd muttered phrase like
“totally unnecessary” and “waste of money”). My best guess is that our marriage
will survive even the advent of the intrusive widescreen TV.
SO MUCH for
our personal continuing saga. But it has been interesting to note friends’
relationships with their televisions, something I never particularly considered
One friend has, in his own words, “more televisions than people”
in his apartment – a likely outcome, he thinks, of the stern disapproval of
TV-watching on the part of his father when my friend was a child. Another has
six television sets scattered throughout his living space, each continuously
turned on and tuned to a different news channel. He works in the media, but even
so it seems excessive.
I love silence, but can understand a need for
those temporarily or permanently on their own to feel part of a crowd or a
conversation, even at a remove. Many people leave their televisions on
specifically for the background noise that so bothers me.
I remember a
relative visiting me many years ago when I lived alone practically begging me to
turn on the television. “How can you stand it being so quiet?” she asked. What I
heard her saying was: “I can’t stand it being so quiet.”
BY NOW we have
all heard much about the adverse effects, especially on children, of too much
television: obesity, poor achievement in school, short attention spans and
impeded interpersonal communication being just some of them. I don’t have much
But what caught my attention was a web page called “Facts and
Figures about Our TV Habit” that cited 56 percent of American children aged
eight to 16 having a television installed in their bedrooms. Almost a third of
them said they habitually watched TV there.
A 2007 research project from
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore involving 2,000 children linked a TV in
the bedroom at five and a half years of age with behavioral problems, poor
social skills and poor sleep.
I am fussy about who and what I invite into
my bedroom, and a television in that rather private space evokes a strong
negative visceral reaction. Even though a TV in the bedroom is very accepted in
modern Western society, increasingly experts are advising against it.
view that feels right holds that different rooms have different purposes, and
bedrooms are intended for sleep and togetherness of a kind other than that of
two faces fixated on a flickering screen.
There are exceptions – sick
people who can’t get to sleep; chronic pain sufferers who may need distracting
day or night; those with unusual lifestyles that can embrace nighttime viewing;
lonely people who are soothed to sleep by comforting background
But regarding the rest of us, it seems to make sense that what we
think about last thing at night matters; and television is a potent and
frequently disturbing stimulant, when it isn’t being plain silly.
are being hypnotized and brainwashed as you drop into your most impressionable
states of mind...” says feng shui consultant Dana Claudat. “Do you want to have
the latest dish detergent and McDonalds shake embedded in your psyche?” She has