We don’t really watch TV anymore.
Now, I don’t mean the endlessly binge watching Netflix originals, HBO Max, and whatever new streaming service has popped up this week alone in your dorm room. I mean sitting around an actual television together watching cable in real time.
My family used to watch nightly TV together when I was younger. I remember us all in our family room. My parents on the couch; me sitting on the floor, half watching, half pestering our dogs, and definitely knowing it was bedtime when the TV host said “Thank you, and goodnight”. Some of the things that we watched then are “staples” of streaming services now. “Victorious”, a classic of my middle school years, topped the Netflix charts when rereleased in past years. But the ambiance, the tradition of crowding close to a TV to watch, has been lost to 2013.
I find myself missing the homemade (read microwavable) popcorn, and the weekend family movie nights because now, everyone is relegated to their individual screens.
There is no blame to be cast, as the inevitable progression of technology led everyone to become immersed in their own tiny devices. Three-year-olds have their iPads, fathers look over their glasses at their phones, teenagers curl up in their rooms with laptops and forage out only for food.
What happened to the promise that this technology would bring us together? It seems to only give us a space to isolate, a rabbit hole to fall into, and an entire fake Wonderland to explore.
As before but now moreso, people’s favorite shows are important parts of themselves. Shows like Brooklyn 99 and Bones are extensions of myself, watched with friends and family, either before bedtimes or well past them. But now, we undertake them alone. Watching things together in college takes planning, forethought even. You have to claim a common room, find the ridiculously named, dongle for your laptop, and be willing to give up a few hours of work for your computer to be sacrificed to the common room TV.
Sometimes it works well. Some friends and I have “Bachelor Tuesdays”, a time for everyone to take a moment to laugh and forget the hustle and bustle of college life.
But, it still feels like a part of our childhoods are gone.
I did not watch a single second of the Winter Olympic games. What used to be a family event (complete with cheering and our own expert commentary on sports we had never seen) was now a two week period of complete normalcy. Just college and no commentary. “Maybe this was my fault,” you might be thinking. “Why couldn’t I have just streamed it by myself?”
My unsatisfying answer is that it would not be the same.
Sitting in my room watching something that used to be a fun family activity almost seems worse than omitting it altogether. Omission may be a concession of change, but I know that in doing it by myself, the value of family and friends seems betrayed. The magic would be lost. So, do better than me.
Grab some friends and pick a TV show to watch together, even if crowded around a laptop in a dorm room. Laugh together over late night TV, even if it is nothing more than segments on YouTube. We may have fallen into our own individual screens (read Wonderlands), but we have to count on each other to pull ourselves out again. Go back to humming your favorite theme songs, and reclaim the furtive glances at the clock when your favorite TV host hits you with, “Thank you, and goodnight”.