On not watching television

When I tell people I don’t own a television, I’m often asked “how do you know what’s going on in the world?”.

I wonder instead how people who spend their time watching television have any idea what’s going on in the world.

I’ve come to realise that when people ask me “how do you know what’s going on in the world?” what they really mean is “how do you know what’s going on in the world of television?”, though in some cases I’m not sure they’re aware of the difference between the two.


  1. I have a telly, and watch it probably a bit more than I should, but a fraction compared to five years ago.

    I self-select 90% of what I watch and read – whether through my curated list of people and organisations I follow on twitter, or through my selection of the Guardian and the BBC for my mainstream news.

    Almost all of what I do watch on TV is off a hard disc, iPlayer or DVD. I am forced to sit through fewer than a dozen adverts per week.

    This is the future of ‘convergence’ we imagined in the late 90s/early 00s, but what are the side effects the shift away from one-to-many broadcasting has had? Has the ‘filter bubble’ of only reading things that fit within our preconceived values and interests made us a more divided society – both in terms of the left/right split (cf. Occupy Movement versus Tea Party) but also in terms of demographics? When I wander outside of my own personal filter bubble, I hear comments and jokes that rely on an awareness of people and events, like Lady Gaga, X Factor, TOWIE and premiership football that I just don’t understand.

    Now the population is hardly split along the old white collar/blue collar labour forces any longer, are we facing a society where the daily frames of reference that form watercooler moments are getting slimmer and rarer?

    Maybe when people ask “how do you know what’s going on in the world?” what they really mean is “what are the social objects we share that we can talk about?”

  2. The ‘watercooler moments’ is a very interesting point… I’ll give that one some thought, and maybe write up a few other ideas around TV too.

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