Television has a bad reputation when it comes to its ability to promote social interaction between friends. This reputation is mostly deserved. Television, while beginning as a family-oriented medium has morphed into our most despised national treasure. Take our television and we’ll hate you forever, though we know we’ll probably be better off.
Why? Because the medium lends itself to passivity, laziness, and obsession, among other things. The very fact that for most, television is a guilty pleasure – something we realize is probably overall bad for us but that we feel we have to have – demonstrates the inherant disarming and trivializing influence of television: we feel as if we can’t do anything to prevent its’ influence on our lives, and even if we could, surely it’s not that big of a deal anyway, right?
One of the most disturbing results of TV watching is its often monumental stamp on our relationships with others. Television is often viewed as a private activity, and when one considers how often we choose to stay in and watch television when we have opportunities to be with others, we begin to see how resolutely community is cut off.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In an effort to take back community without giving up our television, I offer 4 ways to watch television and build community. As a special bonus, they all involve words in quotes. Neat.
1. Embrace the “commercial vacuum.”
Yes, commercials can be annoying. They interupt the flow of a story and can compromise the artistic integrity of a television program. They can also be incredibly annoying, or even worse, subversively convincing. So why embrace them? Because they give those watching television a chance to mute the television and debrief. Don’t be overly formal. Just mute the television and sit there. You’re bound to talk about something. Of course, asking pointed questions of one another is bound to improve this opportunity.
2. Make it an “event.”
If you find others who are excited about something coming on television, invite them over and throw a party around it! Season premieres, season finales, each and every episode of Lost or The Office. These can join the likes of the SuperBowl and awards shows as reasons to hang out with friends and debate the various plot points.
3. Set limits for your television “alone time.”
Television time doesn’t have to be wasted if it’s spent with friends. On the other hand, if you’re merely using television to please yourself with no other purpose, the chances increase significantly that your time could be better spent. Place limits, or better yet, determine exactly which shows you will allow yourself to watch alone and never turn on the television unless you’re doing so to watch those specific shows.
4. Embrace the “common ground” at the “water cooler”
What many perceive to be shallow and foolish talk can often morph into conversation about morality, salvation, redemption and spirituality. If we write off this possibility, we run the risk of coming across as (and being) overly pretentious and self-righteous. Refusing to watch television is admirable. Watching television but refusing to talk about it is downright dangerous.