Monday, July 20, 2015

The Helpful Decline of Media

When I was a kid, only cranks avoided media. One kid in my elementary school didn't have a TV at home and he made damn sure to mention it at least once a day.

TEACHER: Who can remember the quadratic equation?

JERK KID: I can, because we don't have a TV at home.

LITTLE-KID A RANDOM STRANGER: What the what?

At my first real job, I worked with a guy who didn't "have TV," although he had a TV, so his crankness was even more insufferable.

OFFICE WORKER: Did you see Survivor last night?

JERK WORKER: I haven't seen a TV show since Cheers.

YOUNG-ADULT A RANDOM STRANGER: Dude, we get it; you're the king, all right?

He watched videos and, when his family checked in to a hotel, he let his kids watch TV, but anytime I mentioned The Simpsons (which I do a lot), he'd say, "Is that show still on?"

For most of our married life, my wife and I haven't "had TV," but that's been because we've been poor. Internet progress has brought us more TV options as the years have passed, but it's nothing like having a TV with a satellite package. My wife and I probably watch about four hours of TV or movies each week, which seems much lower than I remember adults watching when I was younger (and is much lower than I myself watched when I was younger).

Weird aside about adult TV watching from days gone by (that I'm allowed to indulge because I've been up all night being productive and now I'm somewhat loopy): when I was 17, my mom's boss took all his employees' families on a vacation. We were sharing a condo with one of my mom's coworkers and that lady's husband. My mom suggested I watch TV. I said, "I don't know what's on." The other couple then rattled off from memory the entire primetime lineup for that day of the week of all four networks.

My perception, though, is that TV isn't as good as it used to be. I know I've read articles about this being a "golden era of television," but all the shows that are cited as evidence are shows that are inappropriate for me to watch. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men: is there a recent critically-acclaimed show that doesn't feature pervasive sex, violence, profanity, or the undermining of traditional morals?

This past week, I've really noticed how rapidly the quality of the Internet is declining. Forbes articles have become click-bait slideshows. Yahoo News articles have become About.com-style plagiarism-lite. I just tried to read two articles, one of which turned out to be a slideshow of unabashed advertising copy for Sandals Resorts (except the slideshow was broken and just had random pictures accompanying the text), and the other bemoaned that, "these days, airlines aren't about the customers anymore, they're about making money" (as if there was once a time when airlines were okay with losing money so long as the customers at least had a good time).

As media continues to decline (and I've completely refrained from writing about the septic tank that movies have become; why are people spending $15 every three months to see the same super hero movie over and over again?), it becomes less appealing as a use of time. I'm not finding myself in a terrible struggle to waste less time on media. I'm finding media is helping make the decision to cut back incredibly easy.

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