I find reading solitary but not lonely, while watching TV alone is lonely

Something about TV exacerbates a feeling of isolation for me, while reading generally assuages it. Am I alone and/or is there a good reason for this?

TV is passive while reading is more active. And I tend to agree with what you’re saying.

Although I generally don’t just sit and watch TV. I usually just have it on in the background for noise.

You may have learned, from watching TV with your family or friends growing up and/or from going to the movies, that watching a show is “supposed” to be a communal experience, so that it feels “wrong,” or at least less satisfying, to be watching one alone.

and radio listening, at least to spoken radio, feels not solitary. like a conversation where you aren’t talking.

with tv, even for similar talk, you have a feeling of a transparent wall.


With good “old time radio,” you, the listener, are doing a lot of the real work. You’re filling in the details with your imagination. So, like reading, you’re actively involved in the creative effort.

TV (and movies) are more heavily “pre-digested.” They tell you when to laugh, when to cry, when to gasp. The total immersion renders the viewer more of a “bare nerve ending.” The social aspect is a nice way of comforting ourselves, distancing ourselves, pulling back from that kind of surrender.

This is why it’s fun to watch TV with a small group, and a movie with one close friend. You can get information from when they laugh or gasp. And you can lean over close and whisper, “Did you see the shadow of the monster on the back wall?”

I love watching recorded TV with my family, so we can pause and share observations. “Have you figured out whodunnit yet?”

(Also so you can brew a new cuppa, or go tinkle. By God, that freedom is wonderful!)

When you read a book, you use your brain.
When you watch TV, you don’t.

The OP has a point. I only watch TV with my wife or my son - on the rare occasion that I want to see something neither or them is interested in, I’ll watch it on the computer.

Since I’ve lived alone for decades, I don’t have that feeling so much about tv, but I have come to feel that way about movies. Maybe that’s why I don’t watch movies much anymore, unless its a vintage favorite.

But a book is always good company.

Ugh. I’ll be the lone voice of dissent, it seems.

One of the things I dread about the someday inevitable end to single life and living with a partner is that there will be someone who may bug me while I’m trying to watch the shows I like- or someone who will put down the shows I like/vacuum during the shows I like/flip channels during commercials then not flip back in time (admittedly less of a problem now that I watch less live T.V. with commercials).

I’m not even on board with Tapiotar. I enjoy watching movies alone too.

I don’t watch any brain numbing T.V. I’m actively engaged in whatever I’m watching. I can find it extra enjoyable to watch with someone if that someone is of the same mindset. Watching alone is just fine with me, though, and it is vastly preferable to watching with someone with whom I’m not in sync.

ETA: I also vacuum. I don’t want to sound like I’m holding out for that special someone who will do all my vacuuming for me.
It’s just that I know that I can count on myself to not vacuum while I am watching T.V.

YOu can solve many of these problems when living with a partner by having two TV sets in different rooms.

As for interrupting while you are watching, good luck with that. At least my SO interrupts about the show in question - but it is still a PITA. “Who did that? Why is she dead? Why is he crying? Where did he go?”


I don’t have exactly the same experience as the OP, but I totally get what she’s saying.

I don’t recall watching TV alone as ever having felt lonely, but there have been times when the thought of watching a video seemed very lonely, as opposed to watching TV. Same with listening to live radio versus IPOD or CDs.

For me I guess it’s the appearance of human contact as opposed to the very obvious aloneness of watching or listening to prerecorded media (even though, of course, TV is also usually prerecorded).

Of course. Unless you’re reading aloud, it’s a solitary activity. TV can be watched with others, and often is. If you often do (or often did) then clearly you’re used to doing it with others, and you notice your aloneness when you do it alone.

Try reading aloud when you’re alone and tell me if it feels solitary!

I’d bet that someone who usually reads to someone else (kids or the blind) but rarely for themselves would feel a bit lonely when reading alone.

I actually do a fair amount of reading aloud since I read poetry. But I definitely get your point.

Lots of smart ideas for why I feel the way I do. I think the training aspect is probably the biggest one. TV feels like it should be social because I’ve been trained to view it as social, so when it’s not social, I notice.

Though I don’t think I’ve always been that way. I think this is a more recent training!