I read a post earlier today by Seth Godin on his blog called “But it’s better than TV,” where he listed a bunch of activities he thinks are better than TV. I like the way Godin thinks about things and the way he presents them. But, in this case, I think he is wrong.
First, I would like to acknowledge that his statements are based on his opinion of the way he would rather spend his time, but that he presents them as better for you as well.
Next, I would also like to acknowledge the way Godin ends the article with a thought from Clay Shirky:
Shirky has noticed the trend of talented people putting five or six hours an evening to work instead of to waste. Add that up across a million or ten million people and the output is astonishing. He calls it cognitive surplus and it’s one of the underappreciated world-changing stories of our time.
That sounds about right. But, I would also point out that more than half of the items Godin lists as better than TV would fall under “waste” as opposed to “work.”
Lastly, before I take on his list of activities that are better than TV, I would like to address his following statement:
Broadcast TV was a great choice when a> there weren’t a lot of other options and b> when everyone else was watching the same thing, so you needed to see it to be educated.
To this I once again point out in regards to “a>” that way over half of his listed options have been available for quite some time. Even back when “Broadcast TV was a great choice.”
So, with that I would like to address Godin’s list of activities he says “Now, though, you could” do these things instead of watching TV. His items are in bold and followed by my thoughts on each:
- Run a little store on eBay – Yes, you could run an online store that say, sold TV memorabilia, used TV on DVD sets, or t-shirts with your favorite quotes from TV shows on them. Heck, you could sell TVs.
- Write a daily blog – Yes, you could, like the one you are reading this article on that is about TV.
- Write a novel – Yes, you could, but what makes writing a novel a more valid option than writing a movie or TV show script. Why is a novel a better way to tell a fictional story than TV? I don’t believe that it is. I will mention more about novels below.
- Start an online community about your favorite passion – Yes, this is a good idea, even if your passion is TV. Many online communities exist around TV writing, TV watching, TV shows, TV characters, TV writers, and many other aspects surrounding TV.
- Go to meetups in your town – Yes, meetups are fun, especially if they center around a common interest of those attending that is fun to talk about, like say, a favorite TV show.
- Volunteer to tutor a kid, in person or online – What if in doing so you found that the kid had a passion for storytelling, especially in the form of episodic TV? It’s possible.
- Learn a new language, verbal or programming – Yes, this is a great use of time. If you were to choose programming, you could use it to create the next great delivery system for video online that, yes, would include TV shows.
- Write hand written thank you notes each evening to people who helped you out or did a good job – Or, to your favorite TV production company or network letting them know how much you enjoy their content and how much you would very much like them to keep your favorite show around for another season.
- Produce small films and publish them online – Is it okay if these are done for entertainment purposes? What if these “small films” were episodic in nature and told a story? Wait, that sounds a lot like TV. I’m assuming that if it is a good thing to produce these that you are expecting that people might watch them.
- Listen to the one thousand most important operas – What makes an opera a more valid storytelling option than say a movie, other musical forms, a novel, a play, or yes, a TV show. I would also submit that an opera would be better when performed on stage, as most people listening to an opera would have no idea what is going on in the story, since they don’t understand the language it is being sung in. Yet, most can understand the story and feel the music when watching an opera. You might be able to relive the experience by listening to it after you have seen it, but that visual component seems very much needed to fully comprehend. I don’t really see a difference between going to the opera and watching a great TV show.
- Read a book or two every evening – This is the one that always gets me when people talk about watching TV being a waste of time. Again, I am assuming that since Godin mentions writing a novel above as a worthy way to spend your time that reading one would be okay too. That when he says, “Read a book” that he doesn’t mean only non-fiction. To me a TV show is like a book series. A TV season is a book in the series and each episode is a chapter in the book. The usual retort is that TV is passive and reading is active. If you believe this, then you have been watching the wrong TV shows. Yes, many TV shows may fall under the passive category, but there are many TV shows that you have to watch closely and use you brain to either get the joke or figure out the mystery, etc.
- Play a game of Scrabble with your family – Yes, playing a game with your family is a very valid way to spend your time, but why not play a TV version of “Scene It?” or “Trivial Pursuit.” I would think the point would be spending time with family, not necessarily what game you play.
Yes, I watch more TV than the average person does. And, yes you can get more done by being productive instead of watching TV. Like say, writing an article about why things aren’t better than TV instead of watching TV. But, you can also do so instead of reading a book or playing a game with your family.
In the end, it’s all about what you spend your time on, but using that time to dump on TV over other activities doesn’t seem all that productive to me.
As a fellow “more TV than the average person” I must say, “well put”!
Kyle, Thanks! I recently had a similar discussion with a friend who reads a lot of fiction, but thinks my catching up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer recently is silly. Like me talking about a great episode of the show is somehow different than her talking about a recent book she enjoyed. Which once again got me thinking about this topic. Then I read the Godin piece and it cried out for a response.