Here’s a thing. It’s Saturday morning at the start of winter. It’s nice outside, but it’s pretty cold. No-one in my house has anything particular they need to do.
And the television isn’t on.
Now go back 20 or 30 years. It’s Saturday morning. It’s cold outside. And the television is on, and will stay on probably until bedtime. First there will be some major children’s effort, probably from the BBC (Swap Shop giving way to Saturday Superstore and handing off to Live and Kicking with a few misfires in between).
Then the sport will start. There will be a lull in mid-afternoon when the only live sport is the wrestling on ITV. Then the football results will start coming in, and that will occupy almost the length of a real football match (we only saw one real football match on telly back in those days, and that was the FA Cup Final, which lasted a whole day). Then another lull at teatime with some sub-cabaret nonsense from the coast somewhere. Then Doctor Who. Then a movie, perhaps. Or a detective drama.
A whole day given over to worship of the goggle box.
Right now, my kids are on their computers. One on Facebook, the other on Sims. My daughter’s spent some time watching the Tempest on Youtube because she’s got an audition this afternoon. And I, it should be obvious, am blogging.
It feels to me like my generation was lost in front of the flickering CRT. As Clay Shirky says, maybe this was an interruption in human development. Maybe we’re back on track now. All I know is it’s quiet in my house, and people are thinking and selecting their activities, not just sitting back and letting a default activity anchor them for an entire day. The box in the corner (or rather, the output which ends up on that box) feels like it’s taking a less central, better place in our lives. It does feel like significant progress.
Now, I think I’ll read a book.