The Evils of Television


I know that I am not alone in being concerned about the impact of so-called social media on the way we interact with each other. However, it seems that it’s a concern that’s been around longer than we might have thought.

The other day  I was sorting through a pile of old books that had been donated to the Op Shop and came across a book called “Inns and Outs”. It was written by Gwen Meredith an Australian writer and her husband Ainsworth Harrison about their travels in Britain and Europe. This is just the sort of travel book I enjoy so I bought it and took it home to read.

The year was 1953, Coronation year in Britain and television sets were just starting to become a feature in homes. We didn’t get television in Australia until 1959 so the writers felt it worthwhile to comment on it.Gwen Meredith was at that time writing a popular radio serial called “Blue Hills” which older Australians may remember. While she was interested and impressed with the some of the programs she saw being made at the television studios she visited she commented that not all television programs were good but that some viewers did not seem very discriminating. I’ll quote from the book.

We have seen television that was excellent. We have seen a good deal , however, that was simply not worth watching. And non-addicts suffer from the latter considerably, for a great many people, once they buy a television set, seem to lose their critical ability and watch everything from opening to closing down. If you are visiting them you haven’t much option but to watch too. An acquaintance complained bitterly about this when we asked her when she had last seen mutual friends, “I’ve given up going to see them altogether,” she replied. “I’m not going to trek all the way across London just to watch television. Why, the last time I went, not only did we not have two words of conversation, but they couldn’t even drag themselves away from the set to make me a cup of tea before I had to leave for the bus.”

"Inns and Outs" by Gwen Meredith and Ainsworth Harrison , Angus and Robertson 1955

This of course would have been a cardinal sin in fifties Britain.

Ambassador television set

Ambassador television set  photo from  http://www.earlytelevision.org/index.html

british_color_1953_001-2

So it seems that not much has changed in 60 odd years. Some people are still just as mesmerised by television good or bad as when it was new and we’ve invented even more technologies we can use to ignore each other.

Sydney's Light Rail

Travelling on Sydney’s Light Rail System.

4 thoughts on “The Evils of Television

  1. I definitely love to use technologies a lot (except for television), but I do also know when to stop. It’s not working without balance. I like the bottom line of your article… just a few days I was shopping with my mother and I said to her “Look at all these zombies” and my mother knew what I meant.

    Passants cross the streets without taking a look if there are cars on the left or right, the smartphone has the full attention instead. If I am outside, I will answer phone calls, but generally I have the phone in my pockets and don’t play with it a lot when I am on the way. If you walk through the city, you get a completely different picture, it looks like people are physically there, but their mind is not. I call them zombies, ghosts and so on, because it almost looks like they are controlled remotely (laugh).

    If I have to visit the doctor and when I have to wait one hour in the waiting room, my smartphone helps me to get past this time, but if I am outside, I don’t want to be distracted by technology. For some people it doesn’t matter if they are inside or outside, some people are always busy with their phones. I don’t want to know how many people got overrun by a car due to the fact that they didn’t pay attention to the road traffic.

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    • Balance is exactly the right word. Whether it’s television, gaming or social media it’s fine as long as it’s used in moderation. I took that photo in Sydney. I’d just jumped onto the tram and while I don’t normally like to draw attention to myself by taking photos on public transport I realised that every person I could see was absorbed with their smartphone and probably would not even notice me. It’s crazy that people cross the street without looking or talk on the phone while driving (illegal here but it still happens). Zombies is a good way to describe these people who are not really with you even when they are sitting across a table from you. I don’t own a smartphone, just a basic mobile phone. I do have a tablet and sometimes take it if I know I will be stuck at an airport or similar place for some time so I can read or check emails. However if I am out with friends I am talking to them not using the phone. I may even turn it off if I don’t want to be interrupted. Just the same as when we had visitors David and I would always turn the television off so that it was not a distraction.

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      • I think you are “old school”, which is not bad, because my grandparents taught me “old school” behaviour. You named it, you have guests, you should pay attention to them and not to something else. I am grown up with it, it’s so basic to me that I am shocked when some people have a very different behaviour.

        I had discussions with people, and when their WhatsApp messenger tone ringed, they would immediately read and start to text and forget you, and you stand there like “What the f…” (one of the rare situations where the F-word can really cross my mind, remembering one of your recent posts). It happens regularly, their messenger is priority one over everything else.

        I take a look too if I get a message, because it could be something important, but I just take a look for a second to see if it’s a case of emergency, otherwise I reply later. People are so connected today that they don’t even notice it how rude it is to let someone stand there for 5 minutes or more.

        I myself, when I get a phone call while I talk with someone in real, I usually ask the person on the phone “Did something happen? Is it important?” and if it’s not very important “Can I call back in a short while? I am talking to someone right now.”. It’s a few seconds and you tell the person in front of you “I’m sorry, I had to answer the call because I am afraid that… ” or “I answered the call because I needed to know…” and “Your last thought was that… let’s keep talking now”.

        That is balance too. I’d be less annoyed if someone would tell me “Sorry, I needed to answer the call because…”, as this is basic politeness. Sometimes it’s necessary to read a message, to answer a call for whatever important reason, but you can indicate it to the person, that creates a complete different picture and people usually understand. All this is however not very common today. The phone is number one priority for so many people today, they’d rather have smalltalk with someone at the phone than paying attention to you.

        There are so many exampled where technology engulfs people, it would make a massive list. I am wondering, have you heard of this new smartphone game called Pokemon Go? If not, ask Google, it’s the most recent joke (laugh), it almost seems unreal, it brings the zombification to a whole new level.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It may be that people today are so used to being connected that they don’t realise they are being rude, or maybe they don’t think manners are so important.
        A few years ago I was taking a course to help me improve my job skills. There were twenty or so of us in the class. I was the oldest, the youngest students were in their late teens. For some of our class work we worked in groups and although I did not complain I found it very annoying that the young ones would send and receive text messages during our group meetings. I didn’t feel this was appropriate workplace behaviour. How could they concentrate on what was being said in the meeting? At the end we were asked to give feedback and I mentioned my discomfort with this but that I tried to be tolerant because I could remember that when I was a teenager my mother could not understand how I could concentrate on study while listening to music. Maybe this was a similar thing. However, I still think it was bad manners.

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