The Inescapable Boob Tube

I do not myself watch television, but I respect the choice of those who do. There are many good things on TV; I just find other things in life interest me more. Lately however, I find it increasingly hard not to be exposed to TV everywhere I go.

As large flat screen TVs have become cheaper, more restaurants have them. Some set so many up that one cannot sit anywhere without a television in view. On Sunday night I saw families out for dinner at a place that has gone all out on TVs: At some tables each member of the family had their eyes glued to a different screen. Even if you don’t like TV much and want to engage with your dining companions, the flashing light and sound is hard to ignore.

The hotel I stayed in yesterday had TV in elevator, just so guests don’t have to go TV-less in the long ride up to the TV in their hotel room. The cab I took to the hotel had it in the back seat. My local gas station now has it on the pumps. And as I sit here at an airport waiting for my flight home, people are watching TV on their iPads, cell phones etc. — a few old-fashioned people are actually watching TV on a TV.

As I said, I know there are good things on TV, but are people really watching it in so many places and at so many times because of the content? Or does much of the population just want to zone out like zombies, living in a permanent night and day of the living, screen-staring dead?

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.