We own one fifth of your waking hours. You’re welcome.

Today at The American Conservative, columnist Daniel McCarthy quotes this Marketing Charts report on Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2012 television viewership numbers:

Looking at year-over-year patterns, teen consumption on TV decreased by 45 minutes in Q4, dropped by 98 minutes in Q3, by 47 minutes in Q2, and by 127 minutes in Q1. Other than the fact that viewership dropped each quarter, there aren’t many linear trends to take away from that. Perhaps more significant is when the major drops in viewership occurred. Q1 and Q3 were the heaviest TV viewing periods for teens (coinciding somewhat with TV seasons), but those showed the biggest consumption declines….

In Q4, 12-17-year-olds watched roughly 21 and a half hours of TV per week, the lowest amount of any age group. Interestingly, that not only was about 45 minutes less than Q4 2011, it was about 1 hour less than the previous quarter…

You should click through and read his whole piece, The Kids Are All Russell Kirk.

But what really horrifies me is that number, 21 hours a week. That’s three hours a day. Every day.

I didn’t get rid of my TV for any philosophical or moralistic reason;  nearly twenty years ago I needed a downpayment for a car and liquidated all my toys, including my TV set. I got used to life without it. Then over the last few years I started watching television programs on Hulu or iTUnes — one program at a time, after intentionally making time to be awake, at home, with 43 uninterrupted minutes to watch my show. I love me some Doctor Who and it’s worth an hour a week to indulge.

But three hours! A day!  These are teens, who already spend six to eight hours a day in school. Who, theoretically, have friends and sports and clubs and maybe even homework, which they have to schedule around their TV viewing.

Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they’re just sitting there being programmed for about one fifth of their waking hours by nonstop cultural brainwashing and product promotion, to the exclusion of any human – or humanizing – interaction. 

Oh, and it’s not just a teen thing. Notice the report says:

In Q4, 12-17-year-olds watched roughly 21 and a half hours of TV per week, the lowest amount of any age group.

Well, that’s discouraging.

The fact that teens’ weekly television viewing hours are decreasing is good news, I guess. Interestingly, the reduction in TV viewing hours is not directly offset by an increase in Internet streaming video consumption.  The demographics and the difference in how people consume Internet streaming video are the socially interesting part of the report, which no doubt keeps traditional TV ad agencies up at night worrying. 

Still, the idea of most Americans coming home from work only to plug in and download corporate mind programming for at least three hours every day is just dystopian, and leaves me heavy-hearted.


Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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