(Installment 1 of life without TV)
Some people would consider a TV as essential as indoor plumbing, but fortunately I’m not one of them. When I was home I would normally turn on the TV. Alternately I would play the radio or my CD changer, but there was always something.
In recent years I have come to recognize it for what it is really is – little more than background noise. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve turned on the news to catch the weather report and then missed it entirely because I was busy doing something else at the same time. It’s not as if I was out of the room, either – my mind was just on another task and not until I heard some catch phrase signaling the end of the weather did I realize I had missed it. By this comment, I think it’s pretty clear that, at least for me, I do a lot more listening to the TV then actually watching it.
Maybe it’s just the Type A’s like me who feel that if we are not multi-tasking we aren’t doing enough; or maybe it’s the 24 x 7 society that is the United States, but we tend to find ourselves doing more with less and that isn’t necessarily limited to the work place. We must find a way to do more things with less free time, as well; ergo we multi-task.
I rarely rent movies and seldom watch the handful I have purchased because I don’t actually end up “watching” the entire thing. I feel the need to be doing something else at the same time, whether it’s reading a magazine, knitting, crocheting, cooking, baking, checking email, or doing laundry – I’m generally incapable of giving my undivided attention to the screen. Only in a theatre, where I’m forced to do that one thing and the darkened environment prevents me from doing anything else, can I actually watch an entire movie. (No, just turning off the lights at home will not result in the same experience – it’s far too easy to get up and throw that load in the washer, fetch something to eat or drink, or do any of a myriad of other things. If nothing else your subconscious gets in the way, reminding you that you are at home and really should be doing something else.)
How did I develop this penchant for blocking out something that is so obviously generating both visual and auditory stimulation? I’ve come to the conclusion that the cubicle work environment is the major contributor. Whoever thought that having lots of people working in close knit space with few if any walls would be conducive to productivity, obviously never worked for any length of time in that environment. In order to survive and be productive you need to develop the skill of blocking out noise. People are bound to be talking on the phone or to each other, opening and closing drawers, rustling pages, and so on and so forth. All this auditory stimulation is distracting and so we learn to tune it out, but it’s still really still there in the “background”.
Because we’ve become so used to having a continuous stream of background noise, we find we need to have it even when we are out of that work environment. How many people need go to bed with a radio or TV on? (I’m grateful I haven’t reached that stage – I still prefer silence for my sleep environment, and find any kind of noise counterproductive to inducing sleep.)
Although I have developed the talent for blocking out some background noise, that isn’t to say that perpetually block out everything. I do catch part of the news and can watch a good portion of a sporting event. However, when placed in a group setting with many conversations going on at once, I may only be listening to one of them (or even none if I’m not personally involved in a conversation) as they have all turned into background noise. At work when the noise is intermittent enough to be distracting and I really do need to concentrate on my task, thankfully there are CDs and mp3 players which allow me to block out the common distractions and fill that space with something of my choosing – essentially still getting the “background noise” I’ve come to expect.
If you think this phenomena is limited to the work environment, think back to the last time you were in a restaurant or a grocery store and heard a child saying, “mommy” over and over while the parent continued walking or talking without acknowledging the child? We are all capable of blocking out noise, even if it’s only for very short periods and only to very specific sounds.
So here I sit, trying to drone out the obnoxious noise of the washer/dryer by playing a CD on my laptop while I write this posting….
(Stay tuned for further installments including “Discovering the Beauty of Silence”)