I planned to start writing this article three hours ago, but then I got distracted by watching TV. Evidently, TV has a pretty significant impact on my life and I would assume the majority of the student population alike. Strike up a conversation about a person’s favourite TV show and you could be talking for hours, debating characters, plot lines, or just who your favourite X Factor contestant is. So, after spending three hours sat in front of the television my flatmate brought to Uni – along with a TV licence – instead of starting my work, I begin to question why I spend so much time on a seemingly pointless activity and why it has become such an intrinsic part of my life.
Undoubtedly, the first issue is the easy and instant access to TV. If you don’t actually have a television at Uni I will guarantee that at least one of your flatmates has a subscription to Netflix, which obviously you will all now share, or you are said flatmate and spend hours on end as a social recluse binge watching your current obsession, be it Gossip Girl, Orange is the New Black or Breaking Bad. Netflix, as we all know, is a dangerous service acting as an obstacle to any kind of productive work we intend to do. So why do we continue to feed this addiction that supposedly wastes our time and results in spending hours with our eyes glued to a screen? I attempt to justify it by believing that watching these shows can in fact make us more sociable. Talking to someone who loves your show as much as you do can form an instant bond for life between otherwise possible strangers, a mutual understanding between you that only someone as emotionally attached to the characters as you can share. I remember coming to the end of the long six seasons of Gossip Girl, finally discovering Gossip Girl’s true identity – don’t worry no spoilers – and knowing the first thing I had to do was text my friend and discuss, much to her amusement, how my life would never be the same again. That being said, TV shows can also possibly break friendships, as I experienced when I told my flatmate during Freshers that I had never watched Game of Thrones, in response to which I witnessed an exclamation of disgust and outrage.
However, the problems caused by TV go beyond those created by merely binge-watching Netflix. I increasingly find myself distracted by shows I never thought I would watch, for which I can only blame daytime TV. The launch of ITVBe has been significantly detrimental to my productivity as I find myself sucked into superficial reality shows. Apparently I now care about the lives of The Real Housewives of Miami and I cannot possibly turn off the TV until I find out which woman the man chose to take out again on Dinner Date. Although the growth of reality TV has been ongoing for years, in my opinion it seems that as a nation, we are more TV-obsessed than ever. We now even have shows such as Gogglebox in which we watch other people watch TV; I still can’t quite explain why I find it so entertaining.
The influence of social media in promoting our TV habits cannot be denied. If I see someone tweet about a show, it makes me want to watch it too. If someone mentions how shocking the new episode of Pretty Little Liars is, I know that I have to put a halt to any plans until I have also watched said episode. I have now even adopted a precautionary tactic of avoiding any form of social media until I have watched The X Factor results for fear of discovering spoilers, forcing me to put off my life until I have caught up on what I have missed – after all I can manage no longer than 45 minutes without Facebook or Twitter.
I am not claiming that TV is all bad, it is the most popular form of entertainment and an inherent part of modernity, but perhaps I need to curtail my exposure to TV before it takes over my time and life even further. Yet, as I type this last sentence, I realise it is 9pm and The Apprentice is starting. I think I’ll leave my Uni work until tomorrow.