We don’t watch a lot of TV. In fact, as far as regularly scheduled viewing goes, we watch none at all. What we watch is a few favourite series, and movies. We do watch a lot of those. In fairness, most of the movie watching happens after the kids go to bed, and we use it to keep us awake. The background noise, interspersed with moments of humour or action, works well to fight off the yawns at 11PM, when deadlines are looming and sleep seems so very appealing – and so very taboo.
In general, watching movies makes us more productive, if you measure productivity by the number of hours you spend working each day. Which we don’t. However, there are some things that just can’t be done when a movie is on. Movies use up my “Words Brain”, so that I can focus my “Pictures Brain” on creating websites. But when the work I need to do is strategy or writing work, movies are no jolly help at all. In fact, at those times it’s easy to believe that movies are designed to enslave us and squash both creativity and productivity.
With time, I have developed such a strong association between late night working and late night watching that it’s hard to do one without the other. This impacts both our family time, which typically sees me enslaved in thoughts, conversations and executions of work, and my work time, which tends to be randomly focused and easily distracted. In fact, I recently wrote an entire article without actually knowing what I was saying. (I really shouldn’t advertise that fact, and the article actually turned out really well, reinforcing my suspicion that the words I write have very little to do with me: I’m just some kind of business-wired conduit for content. I’m not sure whether or not this is a good thing).
Movies are a very affordable solution to date night on a shoestring: we simply cook (or order curry – yummm), and cuddle up on the couch for a night of box office bliss. It’s cosy, safer than braving the streets at night, cheaper (and better for my paranoia) than hiring a babysitter, and of course the risk of allergic reaction to restaurant food is significantly reduced. But is it really connecting? I wonder.
We use movies and TV series as part of our school curriculum, too. When we were studying Arthur and Merlin, the BBC TV series Merlin gave us some great insight into both the story itself and life in those times. The White Queen, too violent and X-rated for my kids, nonetheless gave me some valuable background insights into how the 1400s in England may have been, and made it easier to convey that during our reading and discussion on the subject. There are many more examples I could give, but suffice it to say that movies make up a large part of our family time together. With our diverse learning styles and processing challenges, we seem to have found common ground huddled around a little box.
Having said that, I find my own creativity and productivity seem to be hampered by over exposure to television and movies. I write less, and what I write has less value. I hardly draw at all, and I create nothing but websites: no dolls, clothes, crafts or works of art. Not even a little garden. I have been known to stay up after I’ve finished my work, to see what happens next in whatever I was watching to try and stay awake in the first place. As someone who is already reaping the health rewards of being chronically sleep-deprived, this is a luxury I really can’t afford.
So the question is, is there value to be had in obsessive consumption of visual entertainment? And the answer is, yes – perhaps. In moderation. To see the full benefit of corporate viewing, we should always watch what our kids are watching – and watch it with them – to make sure their heads aren’t being stuffed with fluff, and to answer their questions as they arise. It’s important to get enough exercise in between all the couch-potatoing, and of course, focus on healthy snacks and balanced meals so as not to exacerbate a potential health-threatening situation. Finally, don’t sit in silence. Discuss what you’re watching, and what you’ve watched. Use it to spark interesting conversations and lively debates. Never allow values and morals to be presented without question. Whether you agree with the sentiment expressed, or fundamentally oppose it, never let it go unchallenged. Encourage discussion and critical thinking, while always teaching sound values and imparting a firm moral compass. This will go a long way towards solving many of the purported evils of too much television. Done correctly, this approach could even reverse the negatives altogether by the teaching of a reasoned response to opposing views.
Do you watch too much TV? Or too little? Do you just absorb what’s coming at you like a sponge, or do you prefer to challenge yourself, to question the logic and even use the premise of a move as an opportunity to grow? I’d love to know.