Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TV at the Dentist’s Office

There are televisions in every exam room at my dentist’s office, ostensibly for the patients to watch. But while I was there getting a filling today, the dentist came rushing in talking about Sidney Poitier on Oprah, and changed it over to that channel. I like Oprah and I like Sidney Poitier, but it worried me a bit to know that my dentist was actively interested in the show. I’d prefer that someone drilling into my teeth not have any distractions.

Which brings me to the point that televisions are so ubiquitous now that it’s downright annoying. There are TVs in every corner of my grocery store, bombarding us with commercials. There’s a television in the post office for while we’re standing in line. When I go across campus for a cup of coffee, I’m subjected to CNN on the student center wall. More and more stores, restaurants, waiting rooms, etc. have TVs glaring down at us. Where does one go for quiet? Where can one sit and read without having to tune out the background media chatter?

It reminds me of the telescreens in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which were in every room and couldn’t be turned off. Of course, those were two-way devices, used for communication and surveillance as well. Perhaps that will be the next phase, once we are fully numb to the inescapable omnipresence of screens.

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