In 1997 my wife and I abandoned television for a summer. It was a quiet, pleasant time, and I remember feeling rather quickly like we had probably made a good decision. I read some books, we got out more and it our time spent together had more to do with interaction than proximity.
So, when my television died three weeks ago, I thought perhaps that we would be entering another halcyon age of broadcast-free nirvana.
I was sorely wrong.
Last night was the first night since the July Catastrophe, which has earned both those imposing capital letters, and the result was what seemed like the first relatively normal evening in a week. I know that you non-television households are cringing at my reliance on the advertising laced idiot-box to bring normalcy to what must certainly be a household of degenerates, and I don’t really have a strong argument to dissuade you. I’m just glad to have my television back.
Over the three weeks without television, I thought a lot about my reliance on all things digital, which only served to remind me that the reason I have all this time to dwell on things is because I’m not watching reruns of Friends. I started to do a catalog of the daily interactions I have with advanced technology: my iPod, my cell phone, my home computer, my laptop, my work computer, my game systems, my dvd player. I get the point. I'm plugged in.
That’s good, right? I mean, it’s kind of what I aim for. I enjoy accumulating the accoutrements to a tech lifestyle.
Then I think about the chasm that tears itself open in my stomach whenever the internet goes down. I obsess over watching those damnable flashing lights on my modem, knowing that at any moment my connectivity to the internet and by extension the world will be restored. It’s not that I’ve got anything better to do than StumbleUpon some image of a boat capsizing with the word FAIL emblazoned in big red letters in the roiling harbor. It’s that I’ve established some kind of unhealthy need, or perhaps reliance, or hell, let’s just say addiction to being online to the point that should I want to watch a cat leap out from under the covers and attack a stranger’s hand on YouTube, I have to know that I can.
I suppose the demise of my television was as good an opportunity as any to recognize my condition and make progress, but let’s not forget that I have four year-old and a pregnant wife. No, by the second week I had jury-rigged an old computer monitor to my 360 so I could stream some television from my computer and watch DVDs.
I have learned a lot about the way my attachment to technology has changed in just the past ten years. Frankly, it didn’t seem that long ago that our old 27” television kicked the bucket leaving our home blissfully quiet. But, learning and taking action on that knowledge are two different things. Though my hand my tremble over the power button as I consider how much of a hold my television, the leader of an army of digital devices that massage my brain at varying intervals, it fails to act.
My television is back where it belongs, broadcasting glorious pabulum into my adoring eyes, and sedating the household. I would be concerned about what that means, but I don’t have as much time to dwell on such things any more.