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Askance
06-28-2005, 11:32 PM
... according to researchers at the University of Zurich (http://tinyurl.com/ajlgz): "IF YOU really want to be happy, throw away your television set. That's the bizarre finding of new economic research completely at odds with traditional assumptions."

"The team was left with a paradox. Watching TV made people feel good while they were doing it, but seemed to make them less satisfied overall.

Other activities affect us in the same sort of way. One is smoking. Cigarettes hurt smokers, but they do so slowly. Immediately, they offer relaxation - which becomes addictive.

Bruno Frey could see how television might act like that. It offers an immediate benefit - relaxation, with the costs not apparent until later. Those costs include tiredness, weak social relationships and insufficient attention to study and careers.

Opinion polls suggest that this is the case for many Americans. Forty per cent of US adults and 70 per cent of teenagers say they spend too much time watching TV."


I watch about an hour a day on average, more than I would have thought before I added it up. But I wonder if time spent on similar pursuits, such as video gaming and surfing the net, has similar effects?

Manda JO
06-29-2005, 12:10 AM
I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your life. I have no doubt that has a culmative effect on your happiness, above and beyond the amount of TV you watch. This is one of the reasons we have no cable and no antenae, but have Netflix. Had I children, I think I'd be more comfortable with them watching sex and violence on TV than with them watching commercials aimed at kids.

Cunctator
06-29-2005, 12:34 AM
I put a photocopy of this article on the office noticeboard this morning so that it could be read by those of my colleagues who think I'm "weird" because I don't have a television.

levdrakon
06-29-2005, 12:53 AM
If I threw away my TV, what would all my furniture point at?

HPL
06-29-2005, 01:15 AM
Bah. I spend more time working on the computer then watching TV anyway. In fact, most of the TV I watch I don't actually watch. I just have it on in the background as I work on the computer.

DataZak
06-29-2005, 01:26 AM
Bah. I spend more time working on the computer then watching TV anyway. In fact, most of the TV I watch I don't actually watch. I just have it on in the background as I work on the computer.

Same here. I somehow find it easier to work on the computer when the TV's on even though I'm not watching it. I guess I just need some background noise.

Shirley Ujest
06-29-2005, 07:49 AM
If I threw away my TV, what would all my furniture point at?


HAH!

The room would be without their leader.

Thudlow Boink
06-29-2005, 08:03 AM
I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your life. I have no doubt that has a culmative effect on your happiness, above and beyond the amount of TV you watch. This is one of the reasons we have no cable and no antenae, but have Netflix. Had I children, I think I'd be more comfortable with them watching sex and violence on TV than with them watching commercials aimed at kids.
Hey, you may have a point there!

twickster
06-29-2005, 08:22 AM
Their premise is flawed -- they're assuming I want to be happy. ;)

KidCharlemagne
06-29-2005, 08:31 AM
How is this a "bizarre" finding? What traditional assumptions are there that TV makes us "happy?" How is it paradoxical that short term gratification is at odds with long term happiness. Christ, if that weren't true then cocaine would be nirvana. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Selkie
06-29-2005, 09:41 AM
I think Manda JO brings up a good point about advertising, and that's not just confined to commercial breaks. Look at all the "house porn" on TV these days that's devoted to telling people that their homes are terrible and need to be completely overhauled by color-blind decorators. I know from firsthand experience that emotional effects these shows have on my mother, who claims she enjoys watching them but once the TV's off, she's bitching about every little thing in the house. Human makeover shows would probably have a similar effect. Superficially these shows may promote the idea that you can do it yourself, but the overall effect is that the status quo is never good enough and you need expensive experts and lots of products to fix "the problem."

ElvisL1ves
06-29-2005, 10:11 AM
If I threw away my TV, what would all my furniture point at?In earlier generations, the family would sit around the parlor watching the radio. No shit.

Mtgman
06-29-2005, 10:15 AM
If I threw away my TV, what would all my furniture point at?
I find it works to get some more furniture and point them at each other. A sofa across from a loveseat where the TV used to be, maybe a couple of easy chairs. That way people can sit across from each other and talk instead of sitting next to each other and being non-interactive.

Enjoy,
Steven

gwendee
06-29-2005, 10:18 AM
I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your life. I have no doubt that has a culmative effect on your happiness, above and beyond the amount of TV you watch. This is one of the reasons we have no cable and no antenae, but have Netflix. Had I children, I think I'd be more comfortable with them watching sex and violence on TV than with them watching commercials aimed at kids.

I originally cancelled the cable to save money but quickly found that with the same arrangement things are much calmer at my house. Its easier to evaluate before the fact what my kid is watching. He also doesn't barrage me with "But why can't I get Evilord Action Figures? They'll make my teeth whiter!" Besides all the consumer ads aimed directly at kids, there are so many things advertised that he just doens't need to know about yet.

Askance
07-01-2005, 01:44 AM
How is this a "bizarre" finding? What traditional assumptions are there that TV makes us "happy?" How is it paradoxical that short term gratification is at odds with long term happiness. Christ, if that weren't true then cocaine would be nirvana. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The article is not at all stupid. It was written by an economist, and economics is (in part) based on the assumption that people want to do what makes them happy, fulfilled, and so on - ie, the market is rational and will sort it out. He's simply pointing out that this assumption is false (in the case of TV anyway) as it fails to account for addiction rather than fulfillment as a motive for consumption.

Snowboarder Bo
07-01-2005, 02:37 AM
hehe

20+ years without TV here folks and I feel fine :D

eleanorigby
07-01-2005, 05:48 AM
Tain't called a idiot box fer nuthin'




I grew up w/o a TV (until about age 8)--I never really acquired the habit. If I watch something, I WATCH it-and then turn the TV off.

I also don't like background noise like radios etc.


Not sure if I am "HAPPY", but I do know that listening to TV all day (at work; I'm a nurse) is extremely irritating--everyone yells and the commmercials are moronic for the most part.
I do think you all are on to something re: the dissatisfaction egendered by comparing RL with "RL" on TV.

Wallenstein
07-01-2005, 05:58 AM
A lot of TVs here in the UK come with a revoluntionary gadget called an "off switch".

It's great - it does the same thing as throwing away the TV, but means you can watch it when you do want to!

How cool is that!

Seriously, with a bit of will-power it's easy to ignore the TV. We use the video to record programs we want and watch them at a time that's convenient.

I've loved watching Wimbledon this week - isn't the same on the radio. I can live without the soaps, and never watch them, but there are some real gems in the schedules that people sans TV miss out on.

I don't see how spending time silently watching TV is any different to spending time silently reading a book - both passive, both exclusive, both able to rot the brain, depending on the material.

Mangetout
07-01-2005, 06:56 AM
I stopped watching TV for an extended period once (actually twice) when I couldn't afford the licence; I was happier and more productive, generally, but I found it harder than usual to fit in socially with my peers; so much conversation relates to what people are watching or have watched on TV, if you don't have a handle on it, you don't fit in and you can't really function properly. Even so (or maybe even because of this), I was happier.

My (then)boss sent me out to buy some item of hardware or other; he handed me what I thought was a note of foreign money - I laughed and handed it back to him; it was actually the 'new' five pound note, that I'd heard precisely nothing about.

Mangetout
07-01-2005, 07:02 AM
I don't see how spending time silently watching TV is any different to spending time silently reading a book - both passive, both exclusive, both able to rot the brain, depending on the material.I'm not sure I agree with this; the social aspect of it, perhaps (although a book is, or has been until the advent of Tivos etc, easier to briefly set aside than a TV programme).

But the fundamental difference (IMO) between a TV and a book is that a book typically forces your brain to supply the pictures - your imagination is stimulated, whereas a TV just dishes them up in prechewed, predigested form.
OK, of course visual media can stimulate the imagination (hence the Batman vs whoever threads and stuff like that), but I maintain that in general, books provoke thought, TV stifles it.

That and the ratio of 'good' reading material to 'bad' is probably generally higher than the ratio of 'good' TV to 'bad'.

Dung Beetle
07-01-2005, 07:18 AM
Last year I canceled our cable because we couldn't afford it at the time. We got no channels at all (although we still borrowed DVDs and videos from the library). It was wonderful. Life seemed so much calmer. The house really began to feel like a haven. It had always been my desire to give up TV anyway, and I think it was really a great thing for us.

Unfortunately, we have cable again now. My mom moved in with me and she "can't do without". I rarely watch, because I've gotten out of the habit, but of course we have the constant noise in the background and the kids are sucked right into it.

I'm getting married next year to a man who likes his TV. His kids even have TVs in their rooms! Oh well, I'll always have my memories.........

Hypno-Toad
07-01-2005, 07:20 AM
But the fundamental difference (IMO) between a TV and a book is that a book typically forces your brain to supply the pictures - your imagination is stimulated, whereas a TV just dishes them up in prechewed, predigested form.
OK, of course visual media can stimulate the imagination (hence the Batman vs whoever threads and stuff like that), but I maintain that in general, books provoke thought, TV stifles it.

Amen to that! I find books to be "active" whereas TV is "passive" entertainment. I need look no further for proof than my roomie who has often told me that he doesn't have the energy to read so he just watches TV.

Much of my post-college life has been broadcast and cable TV-free. I had a TV set, but no attenae or cable. I only used it to watch videos. Then, when the second gulf war started, my roomie had to get cable so he could watch war footage. I quite often think that the quality of my life has suffered because I can get sucked into a TV program so easily. I'm less productive, and get less sleep because the the TV keeps me up too late.

And MANDA JO, I think you are onto something there. It surely can't be good listening all day to advertisers telling you that you lack all the qualities that good, successful people have.

Wallenstein
07-01-2005, 07:26 AM
Amen to that! I find books to be "active" whereas TV is "passive" entertainment. I need look no further for proof than my roomie who has often told me that he doesn't have the energy to read so he just watches TV.

Much of my post-college life has been broadcast and cable TV-free. I had a TV set, but no attenae or cable. I only used it to watch videos. Then, when the second gulf war started, my roomie had to get cable so he could watch war footage. I quite often think that the quality of my life has suffered because I can get sucked into a TV program so easily. I'm less productive, and get less sleep because the the TV keeps me up too late.

And MANDA JO, I think you are onto something there. It surely can't be good listening all day to advertisers telling you that you lack all the qualities that good, successful people have.
That's because people who read tend to choose more challenging books.

I read challenging books, and trashy airport novels, and everything inbetween... the same with my TV watching: sometimes it'll be a high-brow arts programme, sometimes The Simpsons.

And for watching sport there's no susbtitute (save from being there, obviously) for watching a big footie game with a load of mates.

If you pick stimulating programmes, you will be stimulated... same as if you read stimulating books. I can think of plenty of books I've read that have bored me to tears as much as any TV programme.

Interesting factoid: it's said that watching TV can (for some people) burn less calories than simply staring at a blank wall. :)

BMalion
07-01-2005, 09:04 AM
15 years without a televison. I only watch DVD's and videos now because I'm alone and going stir crazy. :( But no cable or antenna.

pokey
07-01-2005, 10:06 AM
When I was a teenager I stopped watching TV because I noticed it making me unhappy. It was mostly music videos that made me constantly think I needed a bigger chest and a more even tan and whiter teeth and nicer clothes. I noticed that every time I watched it I felt like I could never really relax because even with things like sitcoms, I definitely watched it from the point of view of trying to learn something about how to be or what things should be like.

I started to watch it again in my 20s when I realized you could just watch a show and then turn it off when it was over. I used to watch Xena and I just loved it. Then Oz and now Arrested Development and the Apprentice. Usually somebody tells me to watch a show or I read about it and then I only watch that one show. Or I get the DVDs of the show.

TV is weird because it's like a person with a terrible personality. It's like its own culture and in Canada you don't even know if it's US culture or if it's just TV culture. It gives me a bad case of xenophobia though. I see it in my minds eye as some grown up party where you picutre a bunch of people like Paris Hilton, George Bush, Oprah, that girl from Trading Spaces and a mom from Iowa all sit on a white shag carpet watching Angelina Jolie tell a story about how her dog makes a funny face when it poos and then lazer beams shoot out of everyone teeth and then some people in wal-mart uniforms usher in naked Jessica Simpson and everyone snorts coke off her naked breasts while Dave Chappelle sits in the corner weeping for humanity with his all-seeing eyes. Then the Barefoot Contessa comes in with goat cheese snacks and two skinny 19 year old male models who have been kept in the forrest for 12 weeks with shag haircuts wearing distressed designer clothes and fight to the death and the winner gets an X-Box. In the background, someone young wearing a lot of eyeliner is taking a dump on a DVD biography of Winston Churchill.

I've never done acid but TV makes me feel like I did. I just feel alienated from the whole culture. I'd rather just avoid it. Yeah it makes me unhappy. Even without watching it a lot I get this terrible view of the world. I don't like to think of the world that way and I don't like to imagine a whole population enjoying that crazy circus. Maybe it's my fault for not watching it more and making an effort to find the less lurid side.

Thudlow Boink
07-01-2005, 10:18 AM
Wonderful post, pokey! I'm glad you got over learning how to be or what things should be like from TV before you started watching Arrested Development and The Apprentice.


Dear Rest of the World,

No, what you see on TV is not what the USA is really like.

Thanks,
USA

P.S. Just because they call it a "reality show" doesn't mean it has anything to do with Reality.

choie
07-01-2005, 10:41 AM
"If you really want to be happy, throw away your television set.

Sure, if you're after short-term happiness. But everyone knows the real answer to remaining happy for the rest of your life is to never make a pretty woman your wife.

Little Nemo
07-01-2005, 10:45 AM
Don't blame the television for your own bad habits. Giving up watching television is like giving up reading books; you're throwing out the good with the bad. Buy a television, learn what's on, and watch better shows - you'll discover there are good shows being broadcast that are worth your time. Just remember that doing too much of anything is a bad idea.

Dob
07-01-2005, 12:00 PM
I think its funny that people who dont have/watch TV trumpet it like they accomplished something. Not a slam to those people, I just find it amusing.

In any case, I look at TV viewing like I do everything else in life....moderation. Nothing is good for you if you overdue it. People should look more for a balance between say Books, TV, and Radio. All have something to offer, but none should be your only source of information or stimulation.

js_africanus
07-01-2005, 12:40 PM
The link requires registration. Does anybody have the title & authors of the original study?

Mtgman
07-01-2005, 01:35 PM
The link requires registration. Does anybody have the title & authors of the original study?
Original working paper(not technically a study) (http://www.iew.unizh.ch/wp/index.en.php?action=query&id=241)Abstract: The paper studies a major human activity – that of watching TV - where many individuals have incomplete control over, and foresight into, their own behavior. As a consequence, they watch more TV than they consider optimal for themselves and their well-being is lower than what could be achieved. Mainly people with significant opportunity costs of time regret the amount of time spent watching TV. They report lower subjective well-being when watching TV for many hours. For others, there is no negative effect on life satisfaction from watching TV. Long hours spent in front of a TV are linked to higher material aspirations and anxiety and therewith lower life satisfaction.Full study available there as a PDF.

Enjoy,
Steven

js_africanus
07-01-2005, 02:07 PM
Thanks

Doctor Who
07-01-2005, 03:10 PM
Don't blame the television for your own bad habits. Giving up watching television is like giving up reading books; you're throwing out the good with the bad. Buy a television, learn what's on, and watch better shows - you'll discover there are good shows being broadcast that are worth your time. Just remember that doing too much of anything is a bad idea.

Also --- slight hijack --- buy a TiVo.

TiVo is one of those things that you don't know that you need, but you do. It lets you watch quality programming WHEN you want - while avoiding all the needless crap. Plus, with the wave of your remote control you can dash straight through the commercials!

God bless TiVo! I read when I want, I go outside when I want, and (thanks to TiVo) I watch TV when I want.

- Peter Wiggen.

p.s. end hijack / blatant TiVo pimping

p.p.s. I have noticed, however, that I am more apt to turn on the TV now that I can watch all the great shows that I love. This might eat into my reading time, but I have not found it to be too distracting.

Hamish
07-01-2005, 04:22 PM
There's probably something to what Manda JO says about advertising. That stuff is designed to screw us up enough that we'll buy crap products, and hours and hours of attempts to demolish our self-esteem to the point where we'll buy anything they throw at us have to have an effect eventually. Even the heightening of desire can lead to greater unhappiness.

But I think there's something in the medium itself. That passive state, hours wasted, absorbing information, feeling like you can't move. That state of emptiness, of helplessness, of addiction, that TV produces is, in my mind, psychologically damaging.

And I also have to echo Mangetout -- it makes you a social misfit, not owning a TV, but you're still happier. Not owning a TV makes you instantly an outsider looking in on this culture. You never see how people's political opinions, needs, desires, and beliefs are formed by television -- their priorities set -- until you're the one without.

In a Scientific American article a few years ago, I read that the average American loses 9 years of their life to television, and that television withdrawal produces similar symptoms to withdrawal from physically addictive substances. I believe it because, when we lost our last TV 5 or 6 years ago, that's exactly what happened. I was staring at a blank screen for awhile each day, becoming fidgety.

By the time I could afford one again, the symptoms had passed, and I was feeling better. Never went back. Anything worth watching, I rent and play it on my computer, and that's rarely more than one every month or two. I always do it in a group -- watching TV alone is like drinking alone. And I never watch TV that includes commercials (you can skip by these with a DVD).

Mangetout
07-01-2005, 04:23 PM
I think its funny that people who dont have/watch TV trumpet it like they accomplished something. Not a slam to those people, I just find it amusing.It is an achievement; I gave up a fairly heavy smoking habit just like that (<clicks fingers>), I know I find TV a much harder habit to break. I also know I don't really enjoy or even really need it that much.

E. Thorp
07-01-2005, 05:42 PM
Well, I've been without cable or antenna (just the occasional video rental) since 1996, and I don't miss TV at all.

So am I happier or, more specfically, am I less apt to waste time and succumb to electronically induced enervation? Not at all, because of the internets.

Those damn internets tempt the addictive, compulsive, channel-surfing, short-term-pleasure-seeking sick side of my soul every bit as much as TV ever did. Maybe even more, because (1) I can enjoy the internets at work and home alike, and (2) there are, shall we say, fewer content restrictions on the internets.

"Net" gain: zero. :(

Axel
07-01-2005, 07:10 PM
Well, I've been without cable or antenna (just the occasional video rental) since 1996, and I don't miss TV at all.

So am I happier or, more specfically, am I less apt to waste time and succumb to electronically induced enervation? Not at all, because of the internets.

Those damn internets tempt the addictive, compulsive, channel-surfing, short-term-pleasure-seeking sick side of my soul every bit as much as TV ever did. Maybe even more, because (1) I can enjoy the internets at work and home alike, and (2) there are, shall we say, fewer content restrictions on the internets.

"Net" gain: zero. :(

Similar situation here. I do have a TV, but no workable signal, so it's just for DVDs and videos. If it weren't for the videos I'd get rid of the TV and not have to pay a TV licence for TV I can't watch - DVDs I can watch on the computer. But I spend a lot of time messing around on the internet. As a teenager, I stayed up stupidly late watching stupid programmes; now I stay up stupidly late reading threads and articles that have no direct relevance to my life.

I did get a lot from some of the programmes I watched. TV can be active if you want it to be. You can watch something, think about it, focus on certain parts; the very fact that two viewers can get a different impression from the same programme indicates that they are actively parsing the information they receive. That applies for any programme, but documentaries and the like require far more cognitive activity.

The only real difference with the internet is that it will talk back. I have also met a lot of people from the internet (maybe 300 people), and that isn't true for television. The internet has a social facility which TV doesn't.

TV does give you the potential to talk about the shows with your friends and colleagues, but hardly any of my friends watch TV anyway, and I know enough about shows such as 'Big Brother' just from reading about them online.

Has anyone else noticed a generational difference with regard to TV viewing habits? People around my age and younger (I'm 29) have TV as a very small part of their lives. But for our parents and anyone 40+ it tends to be as essential as electric light.

Then there's the next generation. My daughter very, very rarely watches TV, and it's usually the BBC, with no ads, at other people's houses. Among her friends she's not that unusual in watching little TV (though I get the impression that most of them watch some at least). Most of them go to afterschool club and if you're at afterschool club till 6 and bedtime is at 7.30 there's just not much time for TV - and then it's probably the Simpsons or a DVD, because kids' TV is over by then.

Could this lack of exposure to televison, and in particular TV with adverts, be a way in which the kids of working parents actually benefit? Of course, non-working parents can choose not to let the kids watch much TV, but if you're with the kids a lot there's far more reason to let them watch CBeebies while you get on with other things.

My daughter's very unmaterialistic and I attribute this partly to lack of exposure to advertising. I hear other people talk about children demanding certain specific toys for Christmas, and she asked for 'a CD game' and 'a toy.' She hasn't even heard of ... whatever the current trendy expensive toy is. She and her friends play imaginative games, love skipping ropes and art and run around a lot outside. Would they do that if they were used to vegging out in front of a TV?

(FTR, this isn't a group of middle-class hippies - this is in one of the most economically-deprived areas in the UK.)

Apologies for what turned out to be a tangent-filed thesis. Maybe I should start my own thread.

Askance
07-02-2005, 03:04 AM
I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your life. I have no doubt that has a culmative effect on your happiness, above and beyond the amount of TV you watch. This is one of the reasons we have no cable and no antenae, but have Netflix. Had I children, I think I'd be more comfortable with them watching sex and violence on TV than with them watching commercials aimed at kids.

Very insightful post, but I think they accounted for that in the second part of the study. People who had lots of spare time - retirees etc - did not have their happiness affected by watching TV as much as those who had busier lives. Assuming the number and type of ads watched by both groups was much the same, their conclusion is that the depressing effect is caused by a realisation that you are wasting you life and had better things to do, but were not doing them.

That said, both groups were somewhat depressed and you could easily chalk up that to the effect of ads, as you say. I do suspect that women's magazines - ads and editorial content - have a similar effect on Western women in a similar way, inducing insecurity and dissatisfaction as a marketing tool.

by-tor
07-02-2005, 07:54 AM
There is a fairly famous psychology study that showed a correlation between hours of TV watched and the level of people feeling that the world is an unsafe place. Sometimes I wonder how much you could affect people's minds and habits if you had total control of TV content. I don't watch TV (not bragging, just saying). I don't want to fill my mind with useless crap. Now if I could only stop surfing the internet!

msmith537
07-02-2005, 12:27 PM
Television, aimlessly searching the internet, videogames essentially make you feel like you are busy doing something productive when in reality you are just sitting around doing nothing. In the short term, they feel good, or at the very least they keep you occupied from feeling bad for awhile and that's fine. Too much though, and you can find that you have few if any real relationships, hobbies or other activities. That can lead to depression.

Now unlike videogames or the Internet, TV can actually make you feel bad (although I read something about too much Internet time leading to depression). You are looking at the world through a lense where everyone seems so much trendier, funnier and more beautiful, their lives are so much more exciting. Their appartments are so much bigger and nicer. Unless they are meant to be held up for ridicule, every parent is a doctor or lawyer or magazine editor or some other highly paid professional. IMHO, this is a more insideous effect than advertising, which most people have learned to tune out anyway. How would you expect to feel if you were constantly shown images of people living more interesting lifestyles?

mobo85
07-02-2005, 01:55 PM
That's weird. I was browsing through the original Roald Dahl Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at work today (we're selling copies as a tie-in to the movie) and Willy Wonka's little friends were singing the same thing after Mike Teevee got shrunk.

Are the researchers at Zurich University Oompa-Loompas, by any chance?

clairobscur
07-02-2005, 02:38 PM
How is this a "bizarre" finding? What traditional assumptions are there that TV makes us "happy?" How is it paradoxical that short term gratification is at odds with long term happiness. Christ, if that weren't true then cocaine would be nirvana. Stupid, stupid, stupid.


I too am surprised that this would be considered bizarre or paradoxical. I would rather have categorized it as "common knowledge now backed by an actual study".

Wesley Clark
07-02-2005, 02:48 PM
I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your life. I have no doubt that has a culmative effect on your happiness, above and beyond the amount of TV you watch. This is one of the reasons we have no cable and no antenae, but have Netflix. Had I children, I think I'd be more comfortable with them watching sex and violence on TV than with them watching commercials aimed at kids.

That was my first thought, taht the commericals designed to promote insecurity to make people buy products was responsible. Plus all the shows that try to give the image that people are beautiful and have no major problems other than minor romantic trists can screw people up mentally if that is how they think life is supposed to be.

Marley23
07-02-2005, 02:57 PM
Here here about Wimbledon, e-logic. :)
Amen to that! I find books to be "active" whereas TV is "passive" entertainment. I need look no further for proof than my roomie who has often told me that he doesn't have the energy to read so he just watches TV.
I take it you're not familiar with Marshall McLuhan?

If you throw your TV away, you will be very unhappy when you realize you could've sold it for a few hundred bucks.

Misnomer
07-02-2005, 10:58 PM
I'm with the "don't blame your bad habits on your television set" and "everything in moderation" crowds.

Regarding the "advertising sucks" bandwagon, I completely disagree that it's designed to make you feel shitty about yourself or your life. I've never seen an ad that made me feel bad about myself or my life, and I watch a lot of TV. The only ads I can think of that might fit what y'all are talking about are "self-improvement" things, like ads for Weight Watchers or makeup or hair color -- but does anyone really watch those ads and suddenly feel fat and/or ugly when they didn't before? If so, don't blame advertising for your low self-esteem.

I'm watching COPS right now (and MAD TV just before it), and the past four commercial breaks have included ads for Coke, PNC bank, Major League Baseball (twice), lots of other Fox programming, a muffler and brake shop, athlete's foot cream, Marlo furniture, Six Flags amusement park, the morning news, Preparation-H, Gatorade, Alka-Seltzer, and one of those 1-800-GIRLS phone services. Seems pretty typical to me, and not one "your life sucks" ad in the bunch.

Marley23
07-03-2005, 12:18 AM
I've never seen an ad that made me feel bad about myself or my life, and I watch a lot of TV.
The fact that it doesn't make you feel that way doesn't mean it isn't designed to, though. As I understand it, that's the standard way to advertise these days: instead of trying to use reason to convince the consumer he/she needs the product, simply make him/her feel that their status is lessened and that their life is incomplete without the product. I'm not saying it always works, but I do think that's done. For example, when you see car commercials talking about 'the horsepower you NEED,' the idea is that you need a super-powerful car or you're not sexy and adventurous and so forth, like the car in the commercial is.

TVeblen
07-03-2005, 01:09 AM
I just realized a few days ago, while cleaning, that my television hasn't even been plugged in for...I can't remember how long.

It's not that I haven't enjoyed the hell outta TV in the past. Heck, it was my primary outlet for some of the cheesiest, stupid shows in childhood. I hold 'Creature Feature' responsible for my subversive love of C monster/SF bombs. It was as fun as hell. And this from someone who watched--and enjoyed--repeat showings of Bell Lab's 'Hemo the Magnificent' and 'Our Mr. Sun' in classrooms.

There are many more choices now, but maybe the glut has just swamped my ability--or desire--to winnow through all of it.

There are umpteen options out there but nothing reliable enough, for information or whimsy, to rate staying with it. It puts me a real disadvantage for pop culture, without a doubt. I watched exactly one episode of Seinfeld, and none of Survivor, Friends or American Idol. A few of Buffy and The Simpsons, but not enough to really grab me. They were fun and all, but not overwhelming enough to pursue them.

Mostly I wandered away from television, and movies, for that matter, because nothing much in 'em grab me.

Fair being fair, this could be due to early training. TV and movies were treats, frills, that were apportioned out. An hour--max, maybe--on school nights; maybe an hour and a half on weekends, depending on the show. Television just wasn't the default. It was one option, weighed among many.

I can't keep up with the TV/movie-fads-du-jour, and lack the drive to try. The onslaught is overwhelming. The times I do get caught up usually end up feeling like pigging out on cotton candy.

No fault or pissyness for those who can winnow out the gems. It just doesn't work for me.

Sarah Woodruff
07-03-2005, 04:23 AM
TV is weird because it's like a person with a terrible personality. It's like its own culture and in Canada you don't even know if it's US culture or if it's just TV culture. It gives me a bad case of xenophobia though. I see it in my minds eye as some grown up party where you picutre a bunch of people like Paris Hilton, George Bush, Oprah, that girl from Trading Spaces and a mom from Iowa all sit on a white shag carpet watching Angelina Jolie tell a story about how her dog makes a funny face when it poos and then lazer beams shoot out of everyone teeth and then some people in wal-mart uniforms usher in naked Jessica Simpson and everyone snorts coke off her naked breasts while Dave Chappelle sits in the corner weeping for humanity with his all-seeing eyes. Then the Barefoot Contessa comes in with goat cheese snacks and two skinny 19 year old male models who have been kept in the forrest for 12 weeks with shag haircuts wearing distressed designer clothes and fight to the death and the winner gets an X-Box. In the background, someone young wearing a lot of eyeliner is taking a dump on a DVD biography of Winston Churchill.

I've never done acid but TV makes me feel like I did.
Ya think?!? ;)
Seriously, memorably great post, pokey. I'm thinking of printing it out and sticking it over my TV screen (of course I'd temporarily remove it for Oz, DVDs and The Chappelle Show)

msmith537
07-03-2005, 09:14 AM
Regarding the "advertising sucks" bandwagon, I completely disagree that it's designed to make you feel shitty about yourself or your life. I've never seen an ad that made me feel bad about myself or my life, and I watch a lot of TV.

That's not how it works. People don't watch a show or ad and say "wow, my life sucks". They watch TV and they can start to think that what's shown on TV is how life is supposed to be. Advertising attempts to connect with people's lifestyle choices - hey I'm an active on the go hip person. I should get the iPod! How many high school and college students emulate the fashions on the OC? It was the same with 90210 a decade before. How many people eat at NYC restaurants just because they were featured in Sex in the City.?



Assuming the number and type of ads watched by both groups was much the same, their conclusion is that the depressing effect is caused by a realisation that you are wasting you life and had better things to do, but were not doing them.


I certainly feel this way. If it's crappy weather outside, I don't have a problem spending the day watching TV. But if it's nice, I feel as if I should be doing anything but watching TV.
The reality is that most of us would not be out curing cancer or anything instead of watching TV. On the other hand, we could be out doing activities that actually add value to our lives. Probably one of the best experiences I had was going to summer camp for four weeks. No TV at. It forces you to actually meet people and do stuff.

The problem is that people are lazy and TV is easy.

Misnomer
07-03-2005, 09:43 AM
The fact that it doesn't make you feel that way doesn't mean it isn't designed to, though.Sorry for not being more clear: I'm not saying "it doesn't work on me, therefore you're wrong," I'm saying that I really don't agree that advertising is designed to make us feel crappy about ourselves.

As I understand it, that's the standard way to advertise these days: instead of trying to use reason to convince the consumer he/she needs the product, simply make him/her feel that their status is lessened and that their life is incomplete without the product.I think that's a very old stereotype about advertising that isn't true anymore, if it ever was. I'm not saying that there aren't some ads out there that are "bad," because I'm not claiming to have seen every single commercial that exists, I just don't see support for that kind of general vilification.

For example, when you see car commercials talking about 'the horsepower you NEED,' the idea is that you need a super-powerful car or you're not sexy and adventurous and so forth, like the car in the commercial is.I can agree that they're trying to convince you that your life would be happier with their product, because that's what advertising is all about. But to say that that they're also trying to convince you that you suck and your life is shit because you don't have their product? I don't think so. Maybe you see the messages as indistinguishable; I don't. :shrug:

That's not how it works. People don't watch a show or ad and say "wow, my life sucks". They watch TV and they can start to think that what's shown on TV is how life is supposed to be. Advertising attempts to connect with people's lifestyle choices - hey I'm an active on the go hip person. I should get the iPod! How many high school and college students emulate the fashions on the OC? It was the same with 90210 a decade before. How many people eat at NYC restaurants just because they were featured in Sex in the City.?Well, I was just talking about advertising, but since 3/4 of your examples were television shows I'll say that the same argument applies to both: if people start thinking that TV is how life is supposed to be, that is their weakness. It does not mean that the show or commercial is responsible for their poor self-image and/or self-control.

It's kind of like blaming alcohol for alcoholism: just because some percentage of society will abuse it doesn't mean that alcohol is bad for everyone.

Perhaps there should be psychological screening for people before they're allowed to purchase a TV, and the weak-willed among us would not be allowed to get one? ;)

But seriously, I'm not denying that advertising is all about getting you to buy something that you never knew you needed. I just don't agree that most ads are out to imply that you suck if you don't buy their product.

wonky
07-03-2005, 10:15 AM
We didn't have TV for years. Then we got cable and still didn't watch much because it was too hard.

Then we got TiVo and life is good.

msmith537
07-03-2005, 04:44 PM
Well, I was just talking about advertising, but since 3/4 of your examples were television shows I'll say that the same argument applies to both: if people start thinking that TV is how life is supposed to be, that is their weakness. It does not mean that the show or commercial is responsible for their poor self-image and/or self-control.

It's kind of like blaming alcohol for alcoholism: just because some percentage of society will abuse it doesn't mean that alcohol is bad for everyone.



I think a better analogy is if you see all these people out drunk every Thurs, Fri and Sat night, you will assume that everyone goes out drinking every Thurs, Fri and Sat night. It might just be 1% and you don't see the other 99% who stay home, but from your perspective, it looks like everyone.

Misnomer
07-03-2005, 05:08 PM
I think a better analogy is if you see all these people out drunk every Thurs, Fri and Sat night, you will assume that everyone goes out drinking every Thurs, Fri and Sat night. It might just be 1% and you don't see the other 99% who stay home, but from your perspective, it looks like everyone.I usually have no trouble understanding your posts, but for some reason I don't understand the point behind this analogy . . . are you saying that I've only seen 1% of the advertising out there? Or, are you saying that the people who feel bad about themselves when they watch commercials only do so because that's all they know?

deadbeater
07-03-2005, 05:10 PM
They need a study for that?? All they have to do is watch Second city Tevelvision. especially the opening credits.

msmith537
07-04-2005, 08:58 AM
I usually have no trouble understanding your posts, but for some reason I don't understand the point behind this analogy . . . are you saying that I've only seen 1% of the advertising out there? Or, are you saying that the people who feel bad about themselves when they watch commercials only do so because that's all they know?


No. What I'm saying is that television shows maybe the most interesting 1% of a subject. Take being a lawyer for example. Television portrays lawyers as rich, attractive, dynamic, passionate people. They make law firms look like exciting, fun places to work. People in my field (consulting) all think lawyers make much more money than we do because they compare the top 1% big law 6 figure lawyers that already fall within their preconcieved notion of what a lawyer is like and they compare that to our entire industry. The reality (based on my work with lawyers) is that they tend to be dull (or at least no more exciting than accountants or other business people), the work tends to be tedious and not all of them are highly paid. Since law requires an advanced degree, you need to compare it against consultants with MBAs to be valid.

I think the problem is not that TV makes you feel "bad" but that it reinforces preconceived stereotypes. Successful, wealthy people are always attractive on TV so maybe I look for attractiveness when hiring someone. High school and college students have constant consequence free sex so I must be doing somethign wrong if I'm not getting laid every night. Basically TV shows us the images we already expect to see.

flickster
07-04-2005, 09:54 AM
John Prine told us that years ago in "Spanish Pipedream"

Misnomer
07-04-2005, 10:07 AM
No. What I'm saying is that television shows maybe the most interesting 1% of a subject.Well, no one's going to want to watch the other, boring 99%, right? It's entertainment, not a documentary.

I think the problem is not that TV makes you feel "bad" but that it reinforces preconceived stereotypes. Successful, wealthy people are always attractive on TV so maybe I look for attractiveness when hiring someone. High school and college students have constant consequence free sex so I must be doing somethign wrong if I'm not getting laid every night. Basically TV shows us the images we already expect to see.So now we're back to personal responsibility and mental health: if someone mistakes television for reality, how is that the fault of the programming? Perhaps you believe that the average TV viewer is not able to make the distinction?

Paul in Qatar
07-04-2005, 10:30 AM
I watch less TV than before, simply because it cuts into the time I spend on Wikipedia.

I understand TV-viewing is going down amongst certain age groups in certain countries.

js_africanus
07-05-2005, 08:41 AM
It is an achievement; I gave up a fairly heavy smoking habit just like that (<clicks fingers>), I know I find TV a much harder habit to break. I also know I don't really enjoy or even really need it that much.
I'll respectfully disagree w/ you on that. I've given up and re-adopted the television addiction many times. And I don't say that lightly: I'm a guy who can channel surf for twelve hours when there really is nothing good on; it's so easy, it really helps give me a break from my ADD brain.

When I don't have a television available, the dependence (the more proper word) breaks fairly quickly and then it's smooth sailing. Right now I have a television & a DVD player, but no cable & no terresterial stations, so I rent more movies and frequently watch the DVDs I own—television's methadone? Pretty soon I'll be able to quote The Tick like true maven.

msmith537
07-05-2005, 01:46 PM
So now we're back to personal responsibility and mental health: if someone mistakes television for reality, how is that the fault of the programming? Perhaps you believe that the average TV viewer is not able to make the distinction?

How can someone watch TV and not be influenced by the programming? I'm not talking about crazy over the top stuff. I'm talking about subtle distortions that TV causes in how people perceive the world. People around here hate Fox News, right? Why is that? It's because if you tell people only part of a story long enough, that's what people will think the whole story is.

Let's take some of these reality shows like "The Swan", "Joe Average" or "Beauty and the Geek". Why is there an almost universally accepted criteria for what is a "geek" or what is "hot". And why is it that people automatically have the immediate reaction that the "geeks" are not even worthy of consideration. They must be "made over" into something acceptible to the viewing public (most of who ironically resemble that end of the spectrum). Is that something just innate to us as human beings, or is it the result of a lifetime of viewing images that send a message "you must be 'hot' like these people otherwise you will be an outcast and nothing you do will ever matter".

Wallenstein
07-06-2005, 03:10 AM
How can someone watch TV and not be influenced by the programming? I'm not talking about crazy over the top stuff. I'm talking about subtle distortions that TV causes in how people perceive the world.

"How can someone read books / visit a gallery / go to the theatre and not be influenced by the language / images / drama? I'm not talking about crazy over the top stuff. I'm talking about subtle distortions that books / art / theatre cause in how people perceive the world. "

Same argument, surely?

Theatre's often been accused of distorting the truth (in fact, some would argue that's the whole point of theatre, likewise art and literature).

In that respect TV is no different to any other (visual) artistic medium. It's just that it's today's "choice of the masses" and so gets blamed for society's problems.

For the Victorians it was music-hall that was the root of all social problems - in Europe it was Rite of Spring - and for the Nazis it was books and paintings.

There's a great deal of "top down" snobbery involved in the opposition to TV - all the negative effects that have been described in this thread can be applied to culture across the board, apart from TV's appeal to the masses.

Thudlow Boink
07-06-2005, 11:11 AM
While you have a good point, e-logic, I can think of two counterarguments, ways in which TV watching differs from those other forms of culture you mentioned.

One is that people are more likely to watch TV with their critical faculties turned off (or at least, so I suspect). Most people, when they pick up a book or go to the theater or visit an art gallery, are prepared to think about what they experience. They go expecting to be confronted with a particular point of view, that of the author or artist or playwright, and to accept or reject or weigh and consider that point of view. WIth TV, it's not uncommon for people to just plop down in front of it and passively vegetate.

The other is that when you watch TV, at least commercial TV, you are being exposed to deliberate, slick, expert attempts to psychologically manipulate you for the economic benefit of those doing the manipulating.

Stranger On A Train
07-06-2005, 12:59 PM
I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your lifeMy favorite quote from the film Roger Dodger (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299117/):
Roger: You can't sell a product without first making people feel bad.
Nick: Why not?
Roger: Because it's a substitution game. You have to remind them that they're missing something from their lives. Everyone's missing something, right?
Nick: I guess.
Roger: Trust me. And when they're feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them your product is the only thing that can fill the void. So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they go out and buy a stupid looking pair of cargo pants.


A lot of TVs here in the UK come with a revoluntionary gadget called an "off switch"."An off switch. She'll get years for that."


TV is weird because it's like a person with a terrible personality. It's like its own culture and in Canada you don't even know if it's US culture or if it's just TV culture. It gives me a bad case of xenophobia though. I see it in my minds eye as some grown up party where you picutre a bunch of people like Paris Hilton, George Bush, Oprah, that girl from Trading Spaces and a mom from Iowa all sit on a white shag carpet watching Angelina Jolie tell a story about how her dog makes a funny face when it poos and then lazer beams shoot out of everyone teeth and then some people in wal-mart uniforms usher in naked Jessica Simpson and everyone snorts coke off her naked breasts while Dave Chappelle sits in the corner weeping for humanity with his all-seeing eyes. Then the Barefoot Contessa comes in with goat cheese snacks and two skinny 19 year old male models who have been kept in the forrest for 12 weeks with shag haircuts wearing distressed designer clothes and fight to the death and the winner gets an X-Box. In the background, someone young wearing a lot of eyeliner is taking a dump on a DVD biography of Winston Churchill.

I've never done acid...Uh-huh. ;) Well, anyway, great post.

As a non-televisor owner and an only very occasional watcher, I've noticed how unstimulating and often mean-spirited television programs are. With a handful of notable exceptions, you can watch any drama can easily plot out the action ten or fifteen minutes ahead. It's more predictable than a Michael Bay film. And sitcoms tend to be full of characters doing things that in real life would get them ostricized from their peer group or arrested for stalking.

And modern radio is even worse; I won't participate in the carpool 'cause I just can't stand to listen to Tom Likus for an hour a day, and or DJs who think that fart noises are the high point of 21st century humor.

Oh, and I just point my furniture at the bookcases (and the fireplace). But then, I'm kind of a retro-type lad anyway.

Stranger

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