If I watch TV while drinking coffee, is that OK?
I'm not a big Starbuck's person, but I'll go there sometimes as a treat or if it's convinient. Starbucks has been running a promo with The Way I See It" with various quotes, mostly from liberals (with the exception of NRO's Jonah Goldberg). So I was surprised when my Tall Sumatra this morning contained a quote from Michael Medved. And they managed to find a quote I disagreed with.
The quote is:
Americans spend an average of 29 hours a week watching television - which means in a typical life span we devote 13 uninterupted years to our TV sets! The biggest problem with mass media isn't low quality - it's high quantity. Cutting down just an hour a day would provide extra years of life - for music and family, exersize and reading, conversation and coffee.
Now, I'm not going to disagree that it's not a bad idea to read a book or talk to family and friends every now and then instead of watching TV. But I think the stat is kind of deceptive, because I think most Americans don't just sit in front of the TV for 29 hours. The statistic works out to about 4 hours of TV a day, which is probably about right for many people, myself included, in terms of how much they have the TV on - but not how much the sit down and do nothing but watch TV. People leave TV on in the background while they work, surf the internet, work out at the gym, ect.
I have the TV on for a couple hours a day, but I'm usually doing other stuff - packing eBay items, checking my email, surfing the net, folding clothes, cleaning my room, eating dinner, ect. There are a few shows, like The Wire, that I make a point to just to sit down and watch, but most of the time I'm watching while doing something else.
And some of the alternatives that Medved brings up are things people frequently do while watching TV. Exersize is the biggest - most gyms have TV's. I frequently find myself watching MTV while at the gym, even though I never watch it at home. Pimp My Ride is perfect to watch while panting on a treadmill - it's a good distraction, a good way to occupy your eyes instead of staring at a concrete wall. (The Andy Milikonis show, however, still sucks, no matter how board you are).
Some of the most interesting debates I had with my roomates in college were inspired by watching The O'Rielly Factor on Fox and arguing about what he said. How's that for conversation? And is turning off watching a symphony orchestra perform on TV to listen to a symphony on your stereo really a cultural improvement?
I think it's important when we look at the stats about how much TV we watch that we understand HOW we watch that TV.