TV equals unhappy

Tim Jones links to a Reuters study showing that people who are “unhappy” watch 30% more television than people who are “very happy.” In his commentary he asks “Why watch when you can be doing?” Why watch someone else cook when you could be whipping up a fabulous meal for your own dinner table?

TV isn’t all bad. It can convey information very accurately. For instance, two of my favorite programs of the last three years have been This Old House and The Old Yankee Workshop. Both of these are very educational, and the dynamic media of television works well as a learning device. News can be a reasonable use of the boob tube as well, although that requires sound journalism on the part of the news company. When she worked at the paper, my wife constantly bemoaned how the local news stations did little more than take headlines out of the newspapers and create a story by putting a camera on someone standing “live” in front of a sign in the middle of the night. Needless to say, most television media aren’t up to the standards of print or radio.


Even television as amusement retains some value. Sitcoms and dramas tell stories, and stories are an important part of humanity and culture. Granted, there are a lot of crappy stories told via television, but many others are quite good. The fatal flaw of TV entertainment is that it becomes formulaic. A broadcasting company finds something that works and works to exploit that to the nth degree to get as many advertising dollars out of a program as possible. Regardless, there are good stories such as the Gilmore Girls and The Office that partially redeem the medium.

Tim’s question, though, is a very good one. Why watch when you could be doing? Why sit in front of a lit up electronic box when you could be interacting with actual objects or people. Part of the reality is that the TV doesn’t talk back. If a show offends you, you can ignore it because you don’t have a real relationship with the thing; this is especially true of television as entertainment.

I often lament the amount of time that I spend in front of the TV. I sit in front of a computer at the office almost all day long, why in my right mind would I want to go home and sit in front of a screen again? Part of my reality is that I’m married, and television (and its stories) are something my wife enjoys. However, she isn’t idle when she watches Grey’s Anatomy or Bones like I tend to be. She knits or crochets, a picture of the classic multitasking female.

I’m just learning to do this. The progress I’ve made on my website has largely been sitting at the laptop while she knits while Ugly Betty plays in the background. Most of her shows I’m not all that interested in; I can’t multitask during programs that I like.

Since my ceramics studio is in the garage, I’m trying to sculpt in the TV room now. Clay is a bit too cold to work with comfortably during the winter months in an unheated garage. So far this has been fairly successful. I’ve finished a few smaller cloud forms this way. It has its limitations though. Larger pieces are hard to manage in the indoor space. More complicated forms are also problematic if you want to pay any attention to the show at all.

Photo from Wikipedia by Oliver Kurmis.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

3 Responses to TV equals unhappy

  1. Tim J. says:

    The kicker is that there are really a lot of great and worthwhile things on television (not to mention the internet). More, in fact, than anyone ought to allow themselves to watch.

    The internet has the advantage of being more interactive and self-directed. There is at least the possibility of some substantive communication. One could do some very worthwhile research on the web.

    Personally, I have really enjoyed blogging, and it could easily become more of a distraction for me.

    It has been a true pleasure to get to “know” a lot of the people I have met through blogging, and I consider some of them actual friends, though it sounds funny to say that about people you have never (or very rarely) seen.

    Still, it ought not be a substitute for real families and real neighbors (I’m preaching to myself here, mainly).

  2. Sarah Irani says:

    Have you read Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death? He makes a very convincing argument that stupid tv shows are benign, but “educational” television and “news” are dangerous. Very interesting read.

    Rod Dreher thinks that the internet is “an intellectual’s television.” It still wastes hours and hours and prevents us from connecting face-to-face with actual humans. I don’t disagree with him, but I love surfing the net!

  3. pNielsen says:

    I’ve heard of that book but haven’t read it. Why does he say educational/news programs are dangerous?

    And yes, the internet is just as easy to waste time on as TV!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: