Do We Really Need Televisions Everywhere?

Sometimes I need silence to relax, but more times than not, I decompress by watching television. It could be an old favorite, like a Seinfeld rerun, or a new episode of The Soup. Whatever it is, it takes my mind off of the day and I can just focus on unwinding. 

That being said, watching television in a public place like a waiting room is a surefire way for me not to relax. I am always waiting for someone to change the channel when I am in the middle of a program, or for the TV to be on a channel I have no interest in. It seems like the TVs are always tuned in to soap operas or cable news networks. If it’s Fox News, I look for the nearest exit and/or pray for temporary deafness. If it’s CNN, I wait in agony for someone to make a disparaging remark about President Obama (yes, this has happened to me multiple times).

For some reason, when it comes to politics, certain people just cannot keep their mouth shut. I take politics seriously, but it is personal. I am able to discuss things respectfully with the few friends I have who are conservative, but I don’t go out of my way to pick fights with people I don’t know who disagree with me. I do not need some man sitting in the uncomfortable seat next to me to pipe up about Obama’s Socialist agenda and the fact that pretty soon we’re all going to be rounded up and put into work camps (again, I am speaking from a sad, real life experience). Silence is golden.

I’m typing this while waiting for my doctor to come into my exam room, after spending more than 30 minutes in the waiting room. That used to be a TV-free space, but now there is a giant flatscreen hanging up on the wall, most likely because my doctor is notorious for running hours (and hours) late. Let me put it this way: my appointment was scheduled for 11 a.m. It is now fast approaching 2 p.m.

I think he put the TV out there as a kind gesture, because he is a very kind man. His compassion is the reason why he runs hours behind; he wants to make sure he covers everything. But that TV just adds to my stress and aggravation. I already hate waiting, but a good book or magazine will take the edge off. If you provide magazines, or a coloring area for kids who can’t read yet, that should be enough, and a TV won’t be necessary. The entire waiting room shouldn’t be subjected to a show that we didn’t all agree on, and we especially shouldn’t have to listen to the whining and moaning of someone who doesn’t agree with whatever is on the TV.

Yes, it can be boring sitting around and waiting. I have found myself arriving places early without a book or anything else to keep me occupied, and time seems to come to a standstill. But, I would rather sit there with just my thoughts than have to listen to a blaring television, especially one featuring some lame talking head. Am I alone in this? Do you appreciate having a television in a public area, even if you have no control over the program?

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Catherine

Catherine is a Southern California based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in everything from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. The highlight of her life (so far) was being featured on MSNBC for a story she wrote on Hello Kitty wines...she knew one day her love of all things HK would come in handy.

25 thoughts on “Do We Really Need Televisions Everywhere?”

  1. I’m from Germany, and I have literally never seen a TV in a doctor’s office. There are always magazines, however. We do have TVs in the subway, but those only show things like news, weather and little short films and are always without tone.

    I was really shocked that some people watch TV while eating and actually have a TV in the kitchen! I mean, I can fully understand eating in front of the TV when you’re alone, but a lot of families do it, too. My parents only got a TV when I was around 13, and now that I live alone I very rarely watch TV (except DVDs), and I have a huge aversion against people who watch TV all the time or just leave it on when you are talking to them, especially because I can’t not watch if it is on (I also can’t fall asleep while watching TV, no matter how tired I am).

    I spend a lot of time on the computer, but I think the reason why I don’t like TV is because it’s inherently passive – you just sit down and consume whatever is put in front of you – I mean, yeah, there are different programs, but most Germans consume one of 10 channels at best and then only ever like things that are on those channels. I guess in the USA there is a little more variety, like with everything really. (Off topic: Did you know we only have 12 Ben&Jerry’s varieties, with most stores only having one or two? And not even the good ones!)

    1. Only 12 Ben and Jerry flavors????? 0.0

      Oh what sadness. Then again, I often think the US has a little too much variety.  Do we really need 1/2 of an entire aisle dedicated to breakfast cereal? No, probably not. :)

      I grew up with the TV always on, that’s just how my parents are.  It wasn’t until I left for college that I realized how overstimulating that was for me.  I hardly ever have the TV on now. Like you, I rather be on the computer.

  2. I never really had the tv on when growing up. We used it to watch movies, and the 11:00 news (which I usually didn’t watch). So when there is a tv on, I also feel drawn to it, like I can’t stop watching. I get annoyed at my roommate and my SO’s family though. They have the habit of leaving the tv on at all times, and the volume is usually on loudly too.

    The only place I like tv is at the greyhound station. Last time I was there, it was playing Dancing with the Stars. That was good, because they don’t have the volume on, so usually it’s a pain when they show things because you can’t figure out who is who and what’s going on in some shows, but in Dancing with the Stars it doesn’t matter. :)

  3. Oh, away with television in public places! Except for the gym. Animal Planet/Discovery Channel gets me through my work out.

    I don’t understand why pubs and cafes and the like (without ‘sports’ in their name) have a telly on. Don’t you come there for socializing/food? Where do you need a television for?

    1. I forgot about the gym (probably because I haven’t been in forever!). At the Y that I work out at, most of the bikes/treadmills/elliptical machines have personal TVs, which is great because you control what you want and have headphones on, so you don’t have to listen to anyone else!

  4. I grew up in a house where my parents were adamant that if the TV was on, it was being actively watched. We were never allowed to leave it on as background noise. I didn’t realized until I moved in with the now-spouse how different someone’s relationship with TV could be. In his family (which was admittedly much bigger than mine) there were always either one or two TVs on at all times. Drives me nuts!

    1. That’s true…I never thought about how different everyone’s TV viewing can be, because I have never had a roommate and obviously my family has the same habits (for the most part) as I do. I can’t imagine having the TV on all the time, let alone two!

  5. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that TV taste is highly erratic and very personal. It’s just not the sort of thing I think needs to be shared with the public.

    It’d sort of be like me opening up a store in which I piped non-stop European soft-electronica, British folk, and Santigold/Fleetwood Mac’s entire back catalogue. Ugh, and does anyone like Easy Listening music?

  6. I don’t have a TV (not because I’m pretentious, just because I’m poor), so TVs out in public are sort of entertaining. Except the ones showing any kind of news. I’ll take mindless daytime talk shows over news any day. Because news invites commentary, and I hate commentary.

  7. When I’m by myself, I never pay attention to what’s on TV in waiting rooms- I prefer the old magazines. When the kids are with me, nothing is worse than a trashy talk show on the tube. I’ve had to ask people to change it from Maury/Montel/etc because it was so inappropriate for my 6yr old!

    1. I sometimes feel like that, but I often find that I can’t not pay attention to the TV when it’s on. My theory is that I don’t have any TV antibodies, so I’m extremely vulnerable to the attention-grabbing rays that emanate from them. Which is fine when I’m just waiting at the doctor’s office; less so at a bar or restaurant when I really do want to be part of the conversation, but keep getting hijacked by the TV.

      A note about waiting areas: I work at the front desk of a clinic and have told my boss numerous times that the day the waiting room gets a TV is the day I quit my job. I multitask enough as it is without having to police the channel and volume, listen to complaints about the channel and volume, and stop myself from getting sucked into the pablum that is daytime TV. I would just not be able to concentrate on anything.

  8. I hate the prevalence of television in society. And of most technology (even though I am guilty of being a user). I feel like as a whole we are rapidly devolving from being social creatures. We fear strangers everywhere when it used to be a common courtesy to say hello to a passing random on the street (at least in Texas. And for the most part we still try to be friendly to everyone we pass by at least acknowledging they exist with a nod). I feel like we are over-saturated by social media and not enough with real personal interactions. I mean, we don’t even call the pizza guy to order anymore. We do it online. What the fuck is that? Is it that bad to have to talk to someone to put in an order? Maybe I’m just grumpy.

    1. I agree with you on technology, especially when it comes to cell phones. That is primarily the reason why I don’t have an iPhone, because although it would make life/work easier, I HATE that people can’t seem to be able to live without being on that damn thing. Not only do people ignore strangers on those things, but also their friends and family! I laugh when I go to a restaurant and see everyone at a table looking at their phones. Why are you all together if you care more about Angry Birds? Sorry for the tangent, but it’s so annoying.

  9. I have various feelings about televisions in public spaces. I don’t mind if they are quiet and have subtitles or news tickers–those can be fine–but I really don’t like them being in restaurants. (Sports bars are different.) I think American society as a whole struggles with too much television.

    1. It is a lot better when the TVs just have captions on, because you aren’t forced to listen, and people can’t really comment (well, they could, but I think they would feel weird talking about something that not everyone is paying attention to).

  10. I don’t mind them so much in airports, but I could easily do away with them in other public waiting areas. I bring a book usually or play on my phone (something I once swore I would never do – ha).

    As for the unnecessary comments, I’m going back to work tonight and I’m going to be making sure I take my break during an unusual time.  I don’t need to hear my coworkers opinions on Obama coming out and saying he supports same-sex marriage.  It’s not going to be anything good.  Ugh. Most days I really really wish there wasn’t a TV in our break room.

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