I have read here recently, from a couple of sources (Jonathan Franzen and/or Ann Patchett, I think), that reading is a lonely business, and that writing is a lonelier business still. Even movies can be a lonely endeavor. Have you ever had some time alone, and gone on a movie-watching binge, one after the other, barely stopping to eat or sleep or do anything but watch? It’s delightful, in its way, to be sure, but can also feel intensely lonely.
TV, on the other hand, is different. TV provides a delightful warm buzz, almost like actual people. Even if you’re not actively watching, it’s pleasant to have in the background, ambient sound you can take for granted, like people talking in the next room, not to you, but there if you need them. Why is this? Why is TV different than books and movies?
Not too long ago, I read again Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and this whole line of thinking reminds me of the talking walls. Talking heads. Sometimes it feels like we’re heading in that direction; we won’t be happy until all four walls of our homes are screens with no aim but to accompany and entertain us.
I have read some on the subject. There is something about how we feel we know characters on TV, like they are a part of our lives, that does not carry over into books or even movies. We don’t identify with Ross and Rachel or Seinfeld and Kramer as characters on a fictional television program, but as members of our circle of friends. We may not consciously realize this as we’re doing it, but I believe it’s a thing.
Unlike many of my posts, especially about technology, I have no social commentary. In fact, I love TV. I’m just curious about this phenomenon. Why does TV make us feel so happy? And even more poignantly, why does it make us feel so un-alone?