We don’t have TV in our house. Sure, a bulky TV sits on a stand in our living room. But what is seen on it are old movies that we have watched over and over again – and nothing that is live or the latest in TV shows. It’s not so much that I’m taking a stand against television (though I have to admit much of what is shown on TV is utter crap). It’s more about the fact that paying for television has become an even more expensive endeavor, and I’m not willing to shell out $50 or more a month over something that I like maybe 25% of.
But I do pay for the Internet. And by the above philosophy, I should be canning it since I like maybe .2% of what’s out there on the World Wide Web – and even that is inflating the reality of cool stuff vs. crappola. Yet it is doubtful that I will be getting rid of it anytime soon. First and foremost, I need the Internet for my job. But beyond that, it has become the preferred entertainment in our house. There’s Facebook, YouTube, and of course, network TV shows that can still be viewed either on Hulu or through the network websites. So while I don’t pay for cable or the like, I cannot truly say that our household is television free.
A recent survey done by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future found that parents view Internet and TV similarly. At one point, TV was taken away as the favored form of punishment. But now Internet has been rising as the preferred item of take-away. And that’s not all. As the popularity of social networking rises, the amount of face time spent in families has dropped. And yet, many parents still feel that their kids’ Internet usage is just right, more than those parents who feel the same way about their kids’ amount of TV time.
Maybe it’s because we don’t have TV, but I have definitely seen a rise in our whole household’s usage of the Internet. TV isn’t missed because all of us, myself included, get sucked into mindless entertainment through endless web surfing rather than doing something constructive with each other. It has become the perfect mindsuck, a way to escape the reality of the world around us. And it is an excellent way to avoid all those things that need to get done – like mandatory chores or preparing for the next day. There are times we’ve all come home so burnt from the day’s activities that once dinner is over, we each retreat to our own separate areas of the house and plug into a computer until bedtime. In fact, those times that we’ve put the computers away and snuggled up to watch a movie on the television have become special family time.
And the beef I have about Internet usage is the fact that it creates an ADD-like effect. The younger generation (and us old folks too) is using most of their socializing skills through the Internet, losing the art of being able to converse face to face or the ability to pay attention to anything longer than 5 minutes. Flipping from page to page to page, skipping anything that is longer than 500 words, getting sucked into Internet games or catching up with friends by merely reading their 7 word status updates….
For those of you who haven’t made it this far, I am totally talking to you.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe that the Internet is way cool. I mean, I will never, ever get lost again as long as my phone has an Internet connection. And if I have a burning question (like, are snails born with their shells on? Or how big is whale poop?*), the Internet is always there to guide me to my answer. Not only that, there are friends that I have caught up with that I never would have found if it hadn’t been for the Internet. Thanks to the web, we are all suddenly more connected to each other than ever before, able to meet people all the way across the world that we never would have known otherwise. And we all have the capability to have up to the minute coverage on anything going on in the world thanks to the Internet. Plus, there are awesome sites like THIS ONE – my new favorite mindsuck collection of cool sites around the web, perfect for when I am looking for ways to escape doing anything productive (and it’s mostly safe – though you might not want your boss hanging over your shoulder…just in case).
But when it comes to getting in the way of quality time or being a way to unplug from real life, I have to say that Internet can be worse than TV. And yet we, and many families like us, continue to plug into it, day after day, hour after hour.
*Actual questions that have been answered for us by the wonderfully convenient Internet.
Have you found that the Internet is taking up more of your time than television is? Would you say that your kids are on the Internet too much, or just about right? Do you totally disagree with all of this?