Since its introduction, television has increased in popularity to such an extent that the TV has become the electronic member of the family. The TV can hypnotize us and lure us into worlds of fantasy and adventure as we escape from our worries and cares. It can also inform us and bring us up to date on the latest news. The TV can be a teacher, a friend, and a source of knowledge and information, or it can have a negative effect on our behavior. No matter what effect television has on a person, it is often possible to know someone lifestyle by observing the way he watches TV.
When the television was first introduced, critics claimed that it would be mind numbing, addictive, and utterly passive. These critics were describing the stereotypical TV watcher, the Addict. As his name implies, this person s life revolves around watching television. TV is like a drug to him, and he cannot get enough of it. He epitomizes the couch potato and the boob in boob tube, and can often be described as intellectually empty, especially while he is watching TV. The Addict lives hand to mouth from the potato chip bag.
He is lazy and will often go for hours without moving from the television. If the Addict is not glued in front of the TV, he is most likely to be found paging through his latest issue of TV guide, carefully selecting the shows which he will watch that week and marking them off with a highlighter. On an average day the Addict will come home from work or school, put off all responsibilities, and escape into the world of TV. In this world, the Addict has no demands or responsibilities. The TV becomes his only focus of attention, and all of his energy goes into staring at the TV.
While watching one of his favorite shows, the Addict becomes totally oblivious to the world around him. He will not answer his phone, talk to his family or friends, or do anything else which may distract from his viewing pleasure. He lives to watch TV. Just as the Addict emerged with the invention of the TV, the Surfer arose with the invention of the remote control. When a Surfer sits down to watch television, he first grabs the remote before anyone else can get to it. He turns on the TV with the remote, and it does not leave his grasp until he is finished watching.
He is constantly changing the channels and will pause on a particular show only for a moment. The Surfer is a person who likes to be in control, and the ability to change the channel at any instant gives him the power for which he hungers. If he walks into a room where people are already watching TV, he will do his best to take control of the remote, stealing it out of another person s hand when necessary. While a Surfer is watching TV, others in the room will often shout phrases such as, this looks good, this is my favorite show, leave it here, or Hey!
I was watching that! ; however, the Surfer will ignore all of these pleas. In fact, a Surfer will usually be changing the channels so fast that non-Surfers will not even be able to see what they are missing. To the Surfer, changing the channels on the TV is an art form. He knows whether what he sees is interesting or dull the second that he sees it, which allows him to quickly pass over anything he does not want to watch. He knows all of the best stations on his cable TV and has each channel number memorized so that he will never be found sitting through a boring commercial.
Instead, this interactive watcher will be constantly changing the channels until he finds the show of most interest. He will then leave the TV on this channel for a brief period during which he becomes part of what he is watching, often talking back to the people on the show. Unlike the passive Addict who sits immobilized in front of the television, the Surfer is an interactive watcher who loves the power and control which he feels when he holds the remote in his hand.
TV watchers who are neither Addicts nor Surfers will most likely fall into the category of Non-Watching watchers. This type of watcher is a person who leads a very busy life and likes to do many things at once; therefore, he will often have the TV on even if he is not mesmerized by it. It is even possible for a person to change the channel on the TV without him noticing. For the Non-Watcher, the TV is just one area of interest among many others.
He involves himself simultaneously in several activities by alternately reassigning and prioritizing his attention to his many areas of focus. The Non-Watcher has been around since the introduction of TV, but has not been as widely recognized as he is in this era of multimedia. In the past, the Non-Watcher was the housewife who would have the TV on while she was taking care of her children and doing chores around the house. Although her main focus would not be on the TV for the majority of her time, this did not mean that she would turn off the TV.
Rather, she would go about her business taking care of her children, cooking, and cleaning, and during the short periods when she had the opportunity, she would watch the TV to catch something of interest. In this modern day of multimedia there is an increasing number of Non-Watching watchers. We live in a society in which our televisions are always turned on. It is not uncommon for a television to be turned on though nobody is watching it. Because of this, children are growing up accustomed to always having the TV on.
With the increasing popularity of new technology such as video games, compact disc players, and computers, children are becoming even more accustomed to being involved in several activities at the same time. An average student may come home from school, turn on the TV, put on their favorite CD, talk on the phone, and do their homework all at the same time. The Non-Watcher s attention shifts to and from the TV, including it, but not excluding the other activities. The Addict, Surfer, and Non-Watcher watch TV in three totally different ways, which correspond to the lifestyles they lead.
The Addict tends to be lazy and mindless, often sitting for hours at a time in front of the boob tube. The Surfer, who loves to be in control, enjoys a much more active form of watching television as he talks back to the TV and quickly changes the channels against the will of those around him. Finally, for the Non-Watcher, TV is just one of a multiplicity of activities which he enjoys. Although watching television may seem like nothing more than a common form of recreation, it can actually be an indication of the lifestyle a person leads.