The part from the readings that most caught my attention this week was in the article about television addiction no longer being a mere metaphor. Near the middle of the reading, after citing some studies about the problems associated with prolonged television viewing it says: " The question that naturally arises is: In which direction does the correlation go? Do people turn to TV because of boredom and loneliness, or does TV viewing make people more susceptible to boredom and loneliness? "
Usually when this kind of question comes up, people start alluding to the chicken and the egg metaphor as a reference point. In reality, the answer is much more simple: they cause each other. It's a term I learned in a family relations class called circular causality, the causes of TV and loneliness and boredom can be drawn in a circle since to some extent they mutually and simultaneously cause each other. Obviously, many people turn to TV out of loneliness and boredom. The article goes on to say that more TV viewing "may contribute to a shorter attention span, diminished self-restraint, and less patience with the normal delays of daily life". It then goes on to talk about a study done on the effects TV had on a mountain community that had never had it until the study was done. They found that " Over time, Adults and children in the town became less creative in problem solving, less able to persevere at tasks, and less tolerant of unstructured time". In other words TV caused people to be bored in ways that they other wise wouldn't have been.
From these studies it is clear that TV can be a direct cause of boredom in our daily lives. Another way of thinking about it has to do with something I mentioned in my blog last week, the inextricable relationship between availability and dependence. Wherever TV is available, people become dependent on it, and unable to cope with their normal lives. The same could be said for how TV causes loneliness. When people start to depend on TV to fill their needs, rather than through other ways, including not depending on people, they miss opportunities to create meaningful relationships that would otherwise free them from the loneliness and lack of purpose that drove them to watch TV in the first place.
If you haven't guessed this about me yet. I am not a fan of TV. I think its effects are mostly negative, unless used in small doses, so obviously I've focused more here on how TV causes boredom and loneliness, but I could also see it the other way. It makes a lot of sense that people are turning to TV as a way to avoid feeling their boredom and loneliness. TV numbs us and as the article says we are conditioned to associate television with relaxation and rest from tension. And as the article also explains, TV also has a ton of sensory stimulation which constantly triggers our orienting response, thereby keeping our attention constantly on the screen. Clearly, TV is a great way to not feel anything.
Which do you lean toward more though? Does TV cause boredom and loneliness? or do boredom and loneliness cause TV viewing?