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Television is undoubtedly one of the most powerful means of communication in the history of humankind, rivaled only by such other forms of communication as the Internet, the telephone, movies, and, of course, simple, low-tech speech. Television, with its wide availability and rich media with image and sound, is difficult to ignore and even seductive in its appeal. Television is as much a part of our lives as are our meals, work, or school; studies consistently show that the average American child spends almost as much time watching television as she does in school. Furthermore, because television is so rich in its media, it often requires our full attention or is more attraction to us than are our daily lives. Naturally, the more time one spends watching television, the less time she has with her family and friends. Thus, we can clearly see why some have claimed that television has been harmful for communication among family and friends. However, I believe that, while television has been somewhat harmful in its effects, it has hardly “destroyed” communication among family and friends for most people, although for some, this may be true.
Most people much prefer spending time with their families and friends to spending time watching television. Television is of course an important part of many people’s lives, but most people would gladly choose family and friends over television were they given the choice. Furthermore, most educated people are aware of the deleterious effects of too much television and either avoid excessive time watching television, or actually do not enjoy it. I, for example, after a long day at work, would much rather spend time talking with my wife and playing with my children than I would watching some unrealistic portrayal of life on television. For me and my family, our time together is precious and beautiful, and could never be replaced or hurt by television. Furthermore, the effect of television is simply not so great that it could be said to have “destroyed” communication among family and friends. Granting that communication among family and friends in industrialized countries has decreased in recent years, it might be tempting to blame this problem on television since its rise roughly coincided with the decrease in time we spend with our families. However, I believe this situation is more likely due to increased pressures relating from work, school, and the economy. In my case, for example, I find that my pressures from work are so great that I must often sacrifice time at home so that I can meet the challenges of running my own business.
Many of my friends are in similar situations–my best friend, for example, has just finished law school, which took about sixty hours a week of his time. In a word, people nowadays have very little time for anything, but television is not the cause–it is increased desire to succeed. In some situations, however, television has surely contributed to a decrease in communication among family members. In my childhood in the countryside, I often saw parents and children watching television for hours on end, rarely speaking with one another. It seemed for them that television was a way to escape from their sad, miserable existence. However, even in this case, I would say that television merely contributed to the bad situation, but did not cause it; were television not existent, surely these people would have found other escapes, alcohol or gambling, for example. In other words, people always find a way to do what they want to do. In short, I do not believe that television has destroyed or even harmed interpersonal communication among most people. Most people realize that television is merely a temporary diversion and do not use it to replace interpersonal communication. I believe that the damage attributed to television is greatly exaggerated and that such damage is most likely attributable to other more powerful social factors.