Humanity’s New Best Friend: Television and the Loneliness of Suburban America
What within humanity is utterly inseparable from the human and the being? What is so basic, raw, and impossible to be without? While there may be many examples of “innate human characteristics”, one dominate element is sociability. The human condition is innately social. And while there are cases of people who pursue minimal human contact, some species of introversion no doubt, those devoid of all social interaction verge on the edge of madness or have some sort of psychosis.
The human is innately social. We were made in this manner.
A cursory reading of the genesis narrative leads the reader to this conclusion: the All Father, the uncreated creator in perpetual community with the Son and the Spirit, made man in their image. Just as they were in community, so too were Adam and Eve made thusly. Of all creation, it was not good that man was alone. Humanity needed companionship and relationship. It is as vital to the human condition as is food and water.
While talking with some acquaintances, television emerged in the conversation. They were befuddled that I did not own a TV. I certainly do not believe television is some terrible vice. As was the case in my youth, I have not wanted the pale flickering light of a television to be the backdrop to everyday life. The average person today watches some 20 hours of programing a week—a serious part-time job in terms of hours spent consuming this media.
In this conversation, however, what I found most interesting was their explanation of “needing” a TV—something for which I never asked. They volunteered their own justification.
“I am at home alone a lot and I get lonely. The TV keeps me company. And I’ll do other tasks, but the TV is on in the background.”
The issue, it seemed to me, was social. They felt lonely and so substituted television for human relationship. But would not real human relationships be an infinitely better “substitution” for a lack of human relationships in contrast to a television?
This problem raises an even larger issue.
In what other areas of life do we put “things” in place of relationships?
As this trend advances and as our lives are increasingly technologized, we have the feigned idea of being more interconnected (and in a certain sense we are). But we will become increasingly more detached from a wider community around us.
Only in this age do we see two neighbors next door to one another utterly lonely, filling their lives with more and more entertainment, but never having spoken a word to one another other than a wave “hello” or “good bye” in passing to and from work.
It would behoove us to intentionally seek relationships, curb loneliness, and interact with those around us in more than a superficial manner. Such socializing may redeem entire communities and give opportunity for the gospel to blossom.
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