Introduction to Sociology/Everyday life/Technology/Television

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How has the invention and use of television affected our everyday lives?[edit]

The television is probably the most important item contained within the American home. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. What did Americans do before the TV existed? Where did they get their news? How were they entertained? I cannot answer these questions using first hand experience. The young adults of my generation grew up in an era where television was not a novelty, but a reality. I will do my best to give a personal description of how television has affected my everyday life.

Considering that during no part of my existence has my life been completely void of television, it’s hard to define the overall effect it has had on me. My experience, however, has shown me that through its evolution and increasing presence within my lifetime that it follows the general theme of technological changes. The circular pattern is continuous, flowing through the altering of physical environment, to the altering of ideas about the way the world works, and finally to the altering of behavior.

Television has influenced my social life in college in a profound way. Through the communal television in the lounge, I have met some of the most interesting people. Without this communal space and this common interest, it would have been difficult to relate to these people, and find a common ground. Commercial television is very confined by conventions, and everyone indirectly needs to adhere to these conventions, and this is why television has become such a common ground for the people that live in this dorm as well as everyone else. The discussions that are built from watching these shows have bonded us in ways that other conversational elements could not. Unfortunately we have not all read the same books or seen the same plays, and the most common ground we have is in television, so we fully recognize this and act on it. Without this common element I would hesitate to venture from my room. Television is a big part of our society's social interaction today.

Beginning with physical environment, the television in my earlier years could be found solely in the living room. As I grew, so did the amount of televisions we owned, and their size. We settled finally with seven televisions and one projector with television capabilities. This trend could be seen across America, and it certainly followed me to college. Each of my four roommates and I have our own television, with a communal one in our living room and in the lounge. Its evolution into an essential room furnishing caused changing ideas about how the world works.

The notion that each person must have his or her own personal television is an apparent change in ideas from even a decade earlier. This belief was paralleled by another, which assumed that each person also must have his or her own personal channel. While not meant literally, highly differentiated channels were undoubtedly being introduced at a fast rate. A channel was available for virtually everyone: Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, MTV, ESPN, BET, Spike and E, the list could go on virtually forever. As I grew through the “channel boom” and adopted a new favorite each year, I typically found the shows I watched to influence my behavior in that era.

Because most of my friends also watched the same channels I did, we were all influenced by the characters. Noticeable changes such as dress and speech were probably most prevalent, but in sum our entire behavior was probably affected. The argument that violence and sexual promiscuity found on television causes children and teenagers to act in unfavorable ways supports this assumption.

From altered physical environment to altered world outlooks to altered behavior, the television has had a larger impact than I can begin to describe. This continuous pattern restarts and continues with no end in sight, as we currently enter the age of television “On Demand.”