Caution: TV Can Be Hazardous to a Marriage

Published May 5, 1983. Every company that makes television sets ought to be required to attach the following label to each set:


Even if the current campaign to get pornography off the tube were successful, I think there are other concerns about television that ought to be considered. For instance:
  1. Television robs us of time that could and should be spent in more worthwhile pursuits. Among these would be time with spouses and children. It has been documented that children today spend more time with television than they do with their school teachers. But what about adults? It has been estimated that by the time each of us reaches 70, we will have spent about 13 years of our life watching television. This averages out between four to five hours a day, and many of us are right on schedule.
  2. Television is instrumental in attitude formation. More than just robbing us of our time, television robs us of our individuality in that we become the targets of multi-million-dollar mass motivation campaigns otherwise known as advertising. We not only dress, eat and look alike, but now we are beginning to think alike. You don’t believe me? OK, try this? How do you spell “Relief?” (Hint: RO----). The capability to reach an ever-increasingly large audience simultaneously was recently demonstrated when more than 125 million Americans tuned in to the final episode of M*A*S*H. And for two and a half hours were, simultaneously, entertained and bombarded with a few dozen well timed and expensive commercials.
  3. Television also conveys some interesting role models and attitudes on marriage. It is also highly influential in determining marital expectations. Suppose someone is unhappily married and is a soap opera addict. Day after day he or she consumes hours of relationships portrayed on morning and midday television. These relationships usually end in what I call one or more of the 4 D’s: Divorce, Desertion, Disillusionment, or Death. I seriously question whether soap opera addicts have many healthy marriage models during daytime television.
  4. Television makes all of us, young and old alike, less sensitive to violence and pain. How many Japanese soldiers can we sedately watch John Wayne shoot, bayonet, or blow up with hand grenades on the sands of Iwo Jima? If children view some 18,000 killings on television by age 15, as noted, how many more will they watch as adults, and with what consequences, during their 13-year vigil of television watching during adulthood?
  5. Television disrupts daily schedules. Because viewing habits differ, we end up doing things at different time. This includes going to bed at night or getting up in the morning which can affect the time for intimate moments in married life. Too many contemporary wives go to bed at night with Johnny Carson, Alan Alda, and Jack Lord, while their husbands get up each morning with Diane Sawyer, Joan Lunden, and Jane Pauley.

If your wife is a TV addict, have a neighbor drop in periodically during the day to take her pulse and check for pupil dilation. And if your husband watches his four or five hours of television each night, have him declared legally dead and apply for his insurance benefits.

I would be willing to bet that if television viewing were cut in half, and married couples spent the time being together and talking together, there would be an equal drop in the divorce rate or in the amount of marital dissatisfaction. American adults simply watch too much television. Surely there is a better way to spend thirteen years of our life.

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