We’re house-sitting at the moment. It’s a very nice house, a manse in Cornwall, light and bright with lots of large windows. And teddy bears. Teddy bears absou-flipping-lutely everywhere. But no TV. The owner of house apologised for the lack of TV, saying to my parents, “How are your kids going to cope?”
“Oh, they don’t watch TV. ” My parents replied.
Now, to the house owner, this probably sounded like we are extraordinarily wonderful, pure, innocent children, uncorrupted by modern media, but, of course, we are not. We are, instead, Netflix guzzling, YouTube adoring, iPlayer gorging, Facebook prowling, Twitter obsessive, new media consumers. We rarely even go into our front room where the dusty old gogglebox is creaking away. Instead, we stay in our own rooms, apart from each other, living in our own digital universes, which we have crafted and tailored to be just peachy. It’s a phenomena experienced throughout current Western culture. The relatively short era of television is, I believe, drawing to a close.
“It’s a shame really.” I said, when I realised how our family never actually sits down together to watch the telly. “I miss the days of Blue Peter and VHS. Wasn’t it nice when we all used to actually do stuff together.”
This is probably a sentiment shared by the generations before us, when television usurped radio, when radio usurped theatre, when theatre usurped books, when books usurped the aural tradition, when the aural tradition usurped grunting around a fire. (‘Usurped’ looks weird now.) Lamenting the fall of television is romanticising the past. The modal form of entertainment for the masses is constantly changing, and perhaps, becoming more and more insular. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Our world is becoming crowded, not just physically, but virtually, and we require more time to be alone. Our lives are like a classroom of primary school children, vying for the teacher’s attention. Our private Internet space can be the stationary cupboard for when it all gets a bit much. And it’s important to respect that place.