When I was a kid, we were told not to watch too much television or our eyes would “go square.” Whether an understandable reason or not for a child, we’ve all always known that too much TV should be avoided. But for a few years now, it hasn’t seemed like the biggest issue. There was enough to talk about with the rise of smart devices, and how they impacted kids and families.
But then I saw the topic come up on Time’s “Question Everything” section and I realized – it’s back with a vengeance, thanks to providers like Netflix. Such companies really are facilitating the isolation of individuals and the breakdown of family time.
Think about it. At least, back in the day, there was a certain time when your show ended and you had to practice some kind of patience by waiting a week for the next episode. Now? It’s all on demand, meaning that you could literally spend days or weeks holed up in the fantasy world of a particular show. Where’s the character development in that?
When I was at school, we learnt about an aspect that makes television so entertaining: “suspension of disbelief”. It’s basically a fancy of way of saying that it allows us to put our own realities on hold and focus on the character’s lives instead. This is all well and good for a bit of time here and there, but I hardly think it’s healthy at such an excessive scale. Not to mention that social media adds to this by showing us the perfect-filtered-shot versions of our friends’ lives and so making ours seems horrible in comparison… Sometimes we have to live in the real world, you know?
Another worrying consequence is that families are using Netflix sessions as bonding time. Sure, do it once a fortnight, but it’s just no match for the conversation, actual interaction and “being present” that happens around the dinner table or during other family activities. No screen is more important than the people in our lives!
I know, I know, sometimes you just want to have a day where you watch your whole favourite series and relax. But honestly, is it enjoyable? I’ve never had time to watch too much TV, but I know that when I have become somewhat addicted to certain shows, I had to stop and think twice.
For one, I was wasting time and losing sleep in order to fit in the “necessary” viewing of episodes around my daily, already-busy life. Secondly, I only felt sluggish and unproductive after hours dedicated to this activity. And finally, I thought, what am I getting out of this? Am I learning anything good? I definitely wasn’t gaining life lessons from watching shows filled with anger, revenge, competition and shallow relationships. If anything, I was filling my brain with the kinds of things I’d rather not think or even know about!
Everyone makes different lifestyle choices and that’s fine. I just encourage you to ask yourself a few questions before you sit down for a day of bingeing, and encourage your children to do the same: Does this improve my quality of life? Am I adding something worthwhile to my psyche? Is this taking me away from other people?