In My Own Write: Boxing match

TV or not TV – that was, indeed, the question.

Press TV Newsroom R370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
Press TV Newsroom R370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than at each other – Ann Landers
Can a television cause divorce? Apparently it can.
“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.”
THIS 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 television.
“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.
Television is 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 horizon.
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.
Here 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 space.
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 decor.
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 before.
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 to add.
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.
One 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 sounds.
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.
“You 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 a point.