Television is Training Me to Not Watch Television

Television is Training Me to Not Watch Television

Guest post by Scott Adams

Way back in olden times when there were only a few television channels, I enjoyed watching television. I was happy with it most of the time. But in recent years, my television has trained me to stop watching it.

My cable company now offers hundreds of options. That means I can’t find a show within five minutes of searching, and my patience no longer lasts five minutes. My smart phone trained me to have a far shorter attention span than television demands. Mindlessly searching for TV shows among the hundreds of options feels like putting my brain in jail.

If you add one person to the room with me, the odds of finding a mutually-acceptable show that neither of us have already watched approaches zero. But I look anyway, failing at every stage.

Science tells us that people get anxious and unhappy when they have too many choices. I can feel this happening to me in real time. I have trouble finding a show to watch because I know there is such a high likelihood that a better show is available if I just keep looking a bit longer. My experience of watching television has turned from consuming to hunting…and hunting…and hunting. Until I give up in frustration or run out of time.

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On top of that, my cable company has many amazing features and options in their menu labyrinth. They also offer voice commands. Put all of that amazingness together and the end result is that it takes three attempts to do every step of a multi-step process. The voice control works about 30% of the time. I take the wrong menu path about 50% of the time because there are so many options that look similar in function. Without exaggeration, I end up cursing at my television almost every time I use the remote.

My default viewing pattern for the past several months is to watch only cable news shows plus one music channel that I can tolerate. But the cable news networks are making their money from the following types of commercials:

 

  • Pharmaceutical products that put dozens of side-effect symptoms in my head and make me feel as if I might have those exact problems.
  • Pet rescue commercials that make me incredibly sad because I am not a sociopath.
  • Security products that remind me of the risks of great bodily harm that comes from sitting around at home minding my own business.

 

I can’t watch any of those commercials without feeling bad. And that bad feeling is associated with the news channel that carries those commercials. If you associate a bad feeling with a good product for long enough, the good product will become intolerable.

I see no hope of television surviving in the long run if they stick with their current business model of training their customers to hate the entire television experience.

On the plus side, Netflix has a good user experience. I can see why they are doing well.

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