Before the 1940s, the entertainment industry had separate business sectors that rarely overlapped. If one wanted to see a movie, one could go to the corner cinema. If one wanted to hear the latest music, one could only turned on the radio. However, with the introduction of the television in the late 1940s, one could access various types of entertainment, and information through it. Television is basically an electronic equipment that receives electromagnetic signals which transmit the visual image on a screen and audio signals in speakers.
In today’s world, it seems that people are being controlled by advancements provided by technologies. Since the invention of television in western civilization, this electronic apparatus has become an integral part of the daily life of modern society. With constant improvements and introduction of new advanced technologies and application in television, it has become a symbol of social status by reflecting people`s standard of living. Television has caused significant impacts on the society. Such impacts are positive or negative and it is one the debate topics since the inception of television in the late 1940s. However, television’s ability to educate, inform, and connect people is often overshadowed by its negative effects on individual’s health, and other impacts on society.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze social aspects of television by considering its background, current status, and outlook for its future.
Only few discoveries have had as much effect on modern American society as television. In 1947, the number of television owners in the US was merely around a few thousand. By the late 1990s, approximately 98% of US houses had at least one television set, and those televisions were watched for an average of more than seven hours a day. The average US citizen spends around three to five hours a day watching television. Such statistics shows the enormous popularity of television trend. In order to analyze the effects of such a trend, it is necessary to study its background, current status, and future (Stephens).
On September, 7th 1927, first electronic television was successfully introduced in San Francisco in the United States. This technology was designed by a 21-year old young inventor, Philo Taylor, who had lived without electricity in a house until he was 14. His electronic equipment could reflect moving images in the form that could be coded into electromagnetic waves and then transformed back into an image on a screen. Soon, RCA, the leading company in the radio business in the US, invested around $50 million in the development of television technology. In 1939, RCA broadcasted the opening of the New York World’s Fair with a speech of President Franklin Roosevelt, who had become the first president to appear on television. Later, RCA began to sell television sets with a 5-by-12-inch display. By 1941, the CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) was broadcasting 2 news bulletins of 15 minutes every day. There were around 44,000 televisions in US houses in 1947. In 1952, black-and-white television sets were introduced, while color broadcasting started in 1964. With the introduction of a cable network, people were allowed to access various kinds of channels and networks. By 1971, the cable network had more than 80,000 users in New York. In the late 1980s and 1990s, with an increased competition in the market brought on by the high number of cable channels, broadcasting of violent and sexual contents increased. By 2000, 85% of US households owned VCRs and 98% had more than one television set. With the introduction of DVD technology, DVD replaced VCR in US households. By 2002, more than 40 million US household had DVD capability (Stephens).
Current Status of Television
Today, the television trend has reached the higher level. According to the official reports, today, the average American watches television up to four hours a day. In a way, by age 65, the average American will have spent almost 9 days, watching television nonstop. More than 90% of US households have two or more television sets. Also, the average US household has the television on more than 51 hours in a week. 81% of children from age group of 2-7 watch television without adults’ supervision. 70 % of day care centers for children use television during a whole day. Moreover, 54% of 4-6 year olds, when asked to opt between watching television and spending time with parents, said they would prefer watching television. The average American teenager watches more than 200,000 violent acts on television by the age of 18. Only 4% of violent programs provide nonviolent alternatives to their viewers. Today, the percentage of overweight children has almost tripled since 1965, when it was merely 4.5% of overall population. Today, people are exposed to numerous advertisements and false marketing. By the age of 20, the average US child will watch more than 360,000 advertisements. Such staggering statistics shows the intensity of the television trend in today’s society (“The Social Impact of Television”).
Future of Television
Day-by-day, advanced televisions with hi-fi technologies and applications are introduced in the market. As 3-D technology, satellite channels, sensor, and internet are already introduced in televisions, one can imagine more advanced features and improvements in the future television technology (Young, and Digital).
Soon, televisions will evolve into a multi-screen experience throughout the house. It is possible to have different sizes of hi-definition screens wherever in the house, which will be commanded by voice commands. It will be possible to choose to purchase or stream any specific channel or show at any time. Advertisements will be surrounded by one’s favorite events and shows, and it will be possible to eliminate them by accessing a premium account. It is possible that television will recommend news or shows by considering interests of a user. Voice commands will be more ubiquitous. It will be possible to control TV by means of tablets, phones, laptops etc. By 2023, the cable provider will be a simple delivery platform, rather than the content hub. Even other electronic appliances like, microwave and refrigerator will have screens. One can easily pause, rewind, capture screenshots, and share them with the others by means of voice commands or a simple swipe-and-tap. Though, there are many possibilities and plenty of options to improve, ultimately, the nearest future will show the real outcomes (Young and Digital).
Analysis of Social Aspects of Television
Based on the history, the current status, and the outlook for future of television, it is clear that it is heading towards some devastating consequences. Increasing number of viewers, high number of explicit and violent contents, constant flow of advertisements are affecting the society significantly. Today, many children are showing increasing violent behavior and psychological disorders due to the constant exposure to television programs. Moreover, applications like video games and internet in television are making the youth to be addicted of it.
Recently, Samsung, the world’s largest electronic company, has highlighted the potential threats of advanced television technology to the society. 3D technology has taken the status of television to another higher level. However, according to the company, excessive use of 3D technology can cause serious health problems to a viewer. To view television in 3D, the viewer needs to wear special glasses which strike the brain and eyes with a sequence of flashing images that appear for a friction of a second. Therefore, the technology exerts enormous strain on the body, causing a fatigue, headache, or dizziness. Such a technology also causes perceptual after-effects, motion sickness, eye strain, decreased postural stability and disorientation. The company further warned that the elderly, patients and pregnant women are more susceptible to the danger of serious medical conditions due to use of 3D technology (Warman).
In a way, though advanced technology and modern features are increasing the comfort level of consumers such technologies are connected with various negative impacts on health. In a way, such an increasing trend of television is raising serious issues in the society. It is important to moderate the excessive use of it.
More than 12 official medical studies have linked excessive TV watching to growing rates of obesity and some other chronic diseases among people. One survey has shown that on Saturdays, while watching morning cartoons, children are exposed to more than 200 junk-food commercials. Such advertisements are causing poor diet among children and teenagers. Especially, sugar cereals are highly marketed to children, making up 34% of all commercials during kids’ programs. A recent research has claimed that TV viewing during meals is connected with an extra consumption of high calorie and fatty foods and lower consumption of vegetables, fruits, and milk. The more time a kid, teenager, or adult spends watching television, the greater amount of risk to become overweight. Overweight people are prone to various cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Due to the increasing television trend, childhood obesity has almost tripled in the US over the past 25 years. Children who are obese or overweight by the age of 2 have a 10% chance of suffering from obesity in adulthood. Also, those who are overweight by the age of 10 have a 79% chance of being obese in adulthood. According to a recent report 10% of preschool kids from the age group of 2-4 are overweight, and the rate of obesity among preschool children is 16%. Also, excessive television viewing causes damaged eyesight, decreased metabolism, increased appetite, hormone disturbances, sleep difficulties, or insomnia, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases (Sigman 15-16).
According to the reports of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under the age of 2 shouldn’t be exposed to television or any screen entertainment at all as it causes negative impacts on early brain development of children. Any negative influences until the age of five can have lifelong health effects. Due to TV watching from early ages, almost 5% of children suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and its number is constantly increasing. Repeated exposure to television or a particular activity related to it affects a child’s emotional and mental development. Excessive use of television results in poor performance in school, especially in reading and learning languages. Too much television watching affects the brain’s efficiency to use imagination as an excessive overload on the visual part of brain, restrains the segments of the brain responsible for imagination and creative thoughts form functioning. Also, people who are addicted to television often show poor skills in judging and planning as the areas of brain responsible for such skills are under a constant use and not fully developed if a person is watching too much television since the childhood. The instant stimulus of television can cause an individual to become hyperactive or impatient in critical situations (Sigman 12-14).
According to the reports of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), explicit and violent contents shown on television can actually trigger real-world violent acts and behavior (Sigman 13). Many therapists agree that short-term effects of media violence are related to arousal processes, priming processes and immediate mimicking of certain acts. Due to priming and arousal processes, the brain’s neutral network, which supports an external stimulus, excites another brain node presenting emotion, behavior, or cognition. When media violence portrays cruel contents, it triggers aggressive behavior. Modern studies have shown that humans have an inborn inclination to imitate people they observe and when they are in touch with violent materials, their decisions, behavior and lifestyle are affected. Long-term effects of media violence originate from constant observational learning of behaviors and cognitions, which lead to desensitization of emotional processes. Long-term effects of socialization are likely to originate from the way in which television and the media influence behavior and emotions. Periodic exposures to violent media content can result in habituation of specific natural emotional reactions, which is also known as desensitization. It further leads to perspiration, high heart rates, and comfort when exposed to gore and blood. Media violence creates serious long-lasting psychological negative effects on a person and television is providing huge platform for such acts (Huesmann).
Today, majority of people have to deal with the tremendous media’s influence when it comes to the issue of unhealthy habits and addiction to drugs, alcohol and smoking. Television programs and movies show characters of young, beautiful, popular actors smoking, drinking, making such things a symbol of a cool and stylish personality. Many experts and psychologists claim that in most of the cases, people follow what is shown on television without evaluating its actual effects. In a way, television is actively triggering addiction among today’s generation (Loop).
Dating and Sex
The teen years are a time when most teenagers experience their first romantic relationship and start to think about their sexuality. This is a critical period when they get a mix of messages from adults, peers, and the media. Often television programs represent romance in a vulgar or explicit manner, which can create much confusion among teenagers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is important to clarify the difference between the sexual contents which are shown on television and an actual healthy romantic relationship. This can help teenagers understand the negative effects of unsafe sexual relationships such as, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other potential threats (Loop).
An excessively muscular actor or skinny actress from a television show can negatively influence an individual’s perspectives on body image, which are often contrary to the definition of a healthy body. According to the child development experts at the Kids Health website, teens often compare themselves with the ideal image of body that the media represents. Even though such representations aren’t entirely reliable or realistic, an individual may possess an inferior complex when it comes to the perfect image shown on television. Excessive obsession can result in psychological disorders like anorexia and in some rare cases it can encourage a suicidal behavior (Loop).
Before the invention of television, printing media was considered the primary and fastest medium to access news and knowledge. However, in the 1970s, television was used for the first time to promote social learning and social behavior. Television was deliberately used to reach out to underprivileged communities in society. By means of televisions various governments in the world promote social awareness and social behavior, like solving conflicts without violence. Media theorist Joshua Meyrowitz states that television has guided its viewers to subjects and areas to an access which was previously denied. For instance, according to Elspeth Van Veeren, the “television series 24” helps viewers understand the global war against terrorism (“Positive effects”).
Social Surrogacy Hypothesis
According to the recent studies, people can establish a parasocial relationship with their favorite characters from TV shows. Just as a person would spend time with a real person, virtual relationships, which can be formed with TV characters, allow people to share their thoughts and personally involved in their lives as if they were a close friends. Shira Gabriel and Jaye Derrick of the University of Buffalo, and Kurt Hugenberg of Miami University claimed that such virtual relationships allow people to tackle their loneliness or depression. By providing a temporary variant for social relationships and acceptance, television helps people overcome psychological damages caused by social isolation or loneliness (“Positive effects”).
Various studies have shown that educational television is beneficial in many ways. According to the Media Awareness Network, television can be a very effective and powerful learning tool for kids if used sensibly. It further stated that television can guide young generation to identify where they fit into society, establish closer relationships with family and peers, and teach them complicated social aspects of communication. Moreover, various new TV applications and features allow students to learn mathematics, and other school subjects by means of creative fun games (“Positive effects”).
Seriousness of Television Trend
It is important to consider the seriousness of increasing hype of television trend. Since the invention of television, an active usage and the number of viewers of television have drastically increased. In yearly years of television, TV programs were extremely limited. In contrast, today, viewers can access hundreds of different channels. Also, implication of new, attractive features in television attracts more audiences towards it. Various studies and researches have shown that such factors are significantly affecting family life and social behavior. Television is creating new addicts everyday who are prone to various psychological and physical disorders. It is promoting violence, drug use, and criminal behavior among people. In a way, though television possesses some positive effects, such advantages are overshadowed by excessive negative impacts of television on the society. Considering staggering statistics and facts regardingt such negative effects, it is important to realize the seriousness of the issue.
Since the invention of television, it has dominated the entertainment media sector. Till today, television has gone through revolutionary changes and modifications. Day-by-day, new technologies and advanced features are making television even more powerful and effective. However, excessive use of television and its technologies is causing various negative effects such as health issues, increasing violent behavior, misguidance about sexuality and physical appearances, and a growing level of drug addiction in the society. In order to restrain devastating effects of television on society, it is important to adopt strict policies regarding the use of television and broadcasting of TV programs. Television is a powerful source of information and entertainment in today’s modern world. When this effective and powerful medium in a sensible and responsible way, one can maximize the positive outcomes of it.