As the temperatures descend and the evenings get chilly most of us move indoors. Fall leaves fly and the center of family life changes from the backyard and the patio grill to the family room and the entertainment center. It is a natural change but beware the subtle fall-out that fall may bring to your family nest.
Fall-out is a term that was invented in the nineteen-forties to describe a phenomenon connected to the after-math of a nuclear blast. Fall-out is the word used for the slow descent of minute particles of toxic radio-active debris into the atmosphere. “Fall-out” expands outward from the site of an atomic explosion and becomes largely invisible, extremely poisonous and can lead to a slow-death for those who come in contact with it. While the metaphor is admittedly a bit overstated, the sad truth is that the effects of a fall-winter-and-spring spent tied to an entertainment center, can produce its own version of a deadly fall-out—a deadly fall-out that leads to what can only be termed “life-decay.”
Today the number one form of leisure activity in the United States is T.V. watching. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television more than any other single activity other than sleeping. By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching T.V.” Former president George Bush on C-SPAN in an interview about American T.V. consumption stated, “They put an off button on the T.V. for a reason. Turn it off…I don’t watch much T.V. His wife Laura Bush an ex-librarian and reading advocate categorically stated, “Children cannot learn to read by watching television. Television is just background noise and a distraction.” Prominent voices seem to agree that too much T.V. watching is not a good thing.
If the inordinate amount of wasted time spent by children and others watching were not enough there are other deleterious effects linked with excess T.V. It should be pointed out that—for every hour spent in front of the tube—over fifteen minutes of that hour is spent solely in the viewing of advertising. Commercials are the centerpiece of programming and are meant to penetrate our minds with thoughts of consumption, need and greed. Jerry Mander, an expert on media and its effects on society explains, “While watching television, the viewer is not seeing the world as it is. He or she is looking at a world created by advertising. Television programs are put together with the conscious attitude of promoting a consumer society. The fall-out of television advertising overload is a spirit-poisoning, self indulgent attitude that subtly begins to creep in and controls us. The consequence for our society is an ever-expanding consumerism that keeps us all knowing exactly what we must obtain next if we are to be truly happy.
Consumerism isn’t the only kind of harmful fallout American families who are glued to the tube are susceptible to. The harmful fallout from T.V. watching is not limited to the effects of overdosing on advertising. In 2014, the number one type of T.V. programming was “Reality T.V.” a popular style of programming with its own set of dangers. “Reality T.V.” is that genre of T.V. that has no real story, no content, it is just watching someone else experiencing some part of life while you sit back and voyeuristically observe.
Millions of people each night settle for living life vicariously through others while life passes them by. They watch the loves, the losses, the adventures, the successes, of strangers on the small screen while experiencing little “true living” themselves. Reality T.V. is a type of video entertainment fraught with serious fallout. We are on the verge of becoming a nation who “loves to watch” above all else. We put on hold our emotional, our physical and our spiritual interactions—in order to spend hours watching—and the result is a numbing slow death to what it means to be human beings created in the image of God with a plan and a purpose.
This fall as you move indoors consider the invisible fall fall-out your family becomes vulnerable to as you face off with the entertainment center once again. Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of screens—inactive and focused on “synthetic life” with its demands and absorptions. As the leaves fall why not consider turning over a new leaf and make each hour of each day more productive and full of living and giving. You may need to schedule some alternative activities to fill the vacuum left by fewer hours in front of the T.V. Why not take a walk and talk to God, prepare a home cooked meal with the family and catch up on small talk, attend a small group fellowship with friends, go for a Starbuck’s with your spouse and have some “couples time”, or get creative and start that home improvement project you’ve been putting off. Experience LIFE that’s what living is all about!
Contemplate the reality that we are all God’s workmanship created for a life time of living out good works that He has planned for us (see Eph. 2:10). I don’t know about you but I don’t want to miss out on the abundant life God planned for me because I fell numb under the effects of video fall-out, a life-decaying—death—by watching.