We are 12 family members at our vacation home in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay, many teenagers. We have WiFi, computers, tablets, smartphone, Kindles, books but no TV. And nobody gives a f….
During this vacation, nobody mentioned that we should buy a TV or that they missed watching TV. And since I don’t watch TV either I did not get one. But a couple of days ago, a broker said we should have a TV for a tenant who comes in February. “A tenant could not rent a house without a TV” he said. So I ordered one online and connected it to DirectTV thinking that somebody in my family may want to watch it. Still nobody gives a f…. about watching TV. The TV is there, turned off, everyone is online in some form or other, or reading, or just interacting with each other, but no TV. People go to the beach, cycling, walking, dancing at night, all sorts of things other than watching TV.
Now I don’t know if there is a global trend towards watching less TV. There are also no newspapers in this house and news are read online, so maybe traditional TV is really going the way of newspapers. But data show that in some families TVs are on 4 hours a day. So here’s a theory of what may be going on in my family.
Communal TV is in a way like telephone calls, which are also disappearing in our family. Telephones have this thing to them that is rude, that they ring and annoy everyone, that one person speaks and everyone has to listen to half of what they say, and they are then disconnected from others while they speak but they are still there. Telephone solved a lot of needs when that is all there was to communicate. But now telephones are smart, different and people rarely talk on them. All types of messengers are taking over, Facebook, email, chats of various kinds. They are more private, you answer when you want to.
TV also has this aspect to it that it’s hard to get everyone to agree to watch the same thing at the same time. It’s great for those who enjoy it, annoying for the rest. We can watch TV content of course, and we do, especially series such as In Treatment, Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Boardwalk Empire, Big Love, Dowton Abbey, The Pacific and many others. But we don’t use a traditional TV for that anymore. We have tablets, Netflix, etc. So no Big TV always on for the Varsavskys, just tablets, PCs, smartphones, kindles and still a few paper books lying around.
Watching TV makes you smarter, argues Steven Johnson in this article in the New York Time Magazine.