This week is the concluding installment of my prolonged rant about television. It has lasted four weeks, and in order to avoid dragging it out another four weeks, I will end with a few final observations regarding the negative aspects of this particular technology.

This week is the concluding installment of my prolonged rant about television. It has lasted four weeks, and in order to avoid dragging it out another four weeks, I will end with a few final observations regarding the negative aspects of this particular technology.

MONEY: It is cheaper not to buy cable than it is to buy cable. I’m sure you did not need me to tell you that, but there it is. It also is cheaper not to have to upgrade to the newest video technology every other year. VHS becomes DVD; DVD becomes high-definition 720p; 720p becomes 1080p; 1080p will eventually become 9999p, or Green-Ray, or some such thing — it will be cheaper not to buy all that stuff.

SLEEP: Television is, by far, the No. 1 activity of choice before bedtime. It is used to wind-down after a hard day. Unfortunately, TV does not really wind anyone down. It has actually been proven to interfere with sleep, not encourage it. Yes, it can encourage physical relaxation, but it stimulates other senses, creating a sort of “zombie mode” — an unrestful state of inertness. Insomniacs spend a lot of time watching television. The question is: do they watch television because they are insomniacs, or are they insomniacs because they watch television?

ADD: The Center for Screen-Time Awareness found with each hour of television watched by a child each day, their chances of developing an attention disorder are increased by 10 percent. Four hours of television each day would increase chances by 40 percent. I mentioned last week that television is mildly addictive. As tolerance builds, the viewer needs more and more visual stimulation to maintain attention. Could certain cases of attention disorder actually be misdiagnosed cases of withdrawal from television addiction? When you take a person with a highly developed tolerance to visual stimulation, and then suddenly place that person in front of a blackboard and tell them to “pay attention” to boring lectures, there is going to be a severe struggle. If television deprivation can cause depression and agitation in mature adults (which it can), then it is a bit silly to expect children to handle the deprivation in a more controlled fashion. Yet this is what our age expects. When reality proves this expectation unreasonable, we assign disorders and prescribe medications. Speaking of medications…

DRUGS: No … I’m not talking about the infamous drugs like marijuana or cocaine. I’m talking about the legitimate drugs that you see on TV commercials every five minutes.
No longer does the consumer have to live under the oppressive yoke of his pesky doctor, who will only prescribe medications that his annoying “experience” deems appropriate.
No, we have moved beyond all that primitive silliness. Now the consumer has access to the market. He has freedom of choice. He can now watch a 20-second commercial and know for himself how to best treat his depression, his insomnia or his arthritis.

Seriously, though. Here is the script from a real commercial: “Do you know the warning signs for osteoporosis? Unfortunately, there aren’t any. It’s a silent disease with no symptoms unless a bone breaks.” There you have it. Don’t bother wondering if you actually need this pill, just be terrified and go ask your doctor for it, and do it quick before your brittle arm bones collapse beneath the weight of your remote control. And speaking of weight …

OBESITY: Television calms and pacifies the viewer physically. The metabolism literally slows down during prolonged sessions, encouraging weight gain. So not only is television an alternative to exercise, it is the opposite of exercise.

PLAY: In child psychology there is a thing called parallel play. It is a stage of social development, usually around age 2, when children play near each other but not with each other. They may play with the same toy, but they do not engage each other. Healthy social development progresses toward actual friendships, when the children begin playing with each other, and not just around each other. Television represents a sort of “regression” back into primitive parallel play, because it involves individuals who are around each other, and who may interact with each other, but between whom there is not necessarily any cooperation or intimacy. It is a social activity that does not require relationship.

CONCLUSION: Someone once said “Watching TV is a lot like smoking. People know all the crummy side-effects and continue to do it anyway.” Do they? I’m not so sure. We all feel it — in the same sort of way the smoker feels that something questionable is going on when he inhales smoke particles for the first time, or feels the agitation of deprivation that tells him he is due for another smoke.

It is one thesis of this series that, as with tobacco, a certain amount of exposure taken in a certain fashion is not necessarily harmful, but an excessive dose, or one taken in an inappropriate fashion, is profoundly dangerous. As with tobacco, each individual must decide for themselves when the negative side-effects are potent enough to drop the habit. However, denying that the side-effects exist is no longer feasible. Smoking causes cancer. TV causes … well … just smash the thing and you won’t have to worry about it.

The opinions in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the The McPherson Sentinel or GateHouse Media. If you have any related questions or suggestions that you would like to see explored here, simply email me at