Recently, a number of posts by some people I enjoy reading have decried the usefulness of television. Seth Godin recently wrote that ideas “don’t come from watching television.” In explaining how he writes three blog posts a day, Chris Brogran says that he doesn’t watch television (he also says he doesn’t spend time reading blogs endlessly). And a few articles I’ve read recently decry the amount of time children spend in front of screens, be they TVs, computers or iPhones.
While it’s true that we all face a massive amount of distractions these days, television is but one source of distraction. And it’s not all bad, either. Any medium–be it television, online video, websites, radio, Twitter, Facebook, etc.–has room for both quality and trash. They are but blank slates that allow us (to greater and lesser extents) to create realities. As consumers of media, how we choose to consume media makes the difference. What we do with the information, whether we choose to let it inform, educate or even inspire our lives is entirely up to us.
This might be oversimplification, but it’s a matter of using our time wisely and making smart decisions about what we consume. Moreover, it’s also a matter of finding the right outlet for our consumption. Personally, I would probably have not chosen to pursue a career in communications if it weren’t for The West Wing. Specifically, the show allowed me to imagine what it would be like to be a communications director, a press secretary or a strategist. Granted, I only became a communications director, and my career in politics was short-lived, but the show set me on course to become what I am today.
It’s true that TV, like other media, are designed to be consumed passively. But that doesn’t preclude our own ability to consume them actively, to take what we consume and use it to fuel our own imaginations and ambitions. In other words, how we apply our consumption matters matters more than what we consume.