Tag Archives: childhood memories

The Parable of Virtual vs. Reality

Back in the days of the dinosaurs, when I was in high school, my family had one TV. That’s right, just one, and we didn’t have cable either. Still, we spent a lot of time around that massive cathode tube; time we could have spent on other things. The house wasn’t dirty, but it certainly wasn’t ready for a photo shoot. We ate in front of the tube, talked in front of the tube, paid more attention to the tube than each other.

Then disaster struck—the TV died. Yep, it belched smoke and went to that big electronics dump in the sky.

Ooooh nooooo! What would we do? We didn’t have a lot of money, so it would be a while before we could replace it. My mother flatly refused to use her credit card for a Television, so we would have to save up for a replacement. How awful; and it was in the middle of the Summer Rerun season, too!

It was days before my sister and I stopped whining about having nothing to do. If we whined too loud, Mom would keep us busy, I can tell you that. Oddly, we began to find things to do on our own. We actually started splitting the chores. Reading became a popular sport for us. My sister learned to crochet and I learned to garden. We vacuumed; sometimes we even dusted!

Without TV, our lives changed dramatically. We were forced to live in reality, not vicariously. We were not bound to a broadcast schedule or worrying about what we had missed last night. We hadn’t missed anything and we knew it. We even lost weight. Without the constant barrage of food commercials, we weren’t headed to the fridge every fifteen minutes.

I enjoyed that summer. We had memories of things done instead of just what shows we had watched. We were participating, not observing and it was good.

Still, Mom missed the evening news, and finally bought a new TV.  Once again that flickering blue light ruled our lives. All the benefits we gained over the quiet time were lost. We grazed during commercials and let the chores fall away. We forgot to do things for ourselves. We observed instead of living. All because we didn’t have the strength to turn the box off.

That was twenty five years ago. I don’t have a TV at all now, but I have something even more insidious: the Internet. Having always been an avid reader, I am mesmerized by the sheer volume of information to be explored and it is all at my fingertips. If I run out of topics Google will find something to amuse me.

I am soft and round and seldom out of my armchair for very long. While I am not a geek by any means, I can surf for hours, and I don’t mean waves at Waikiki.  I seem to have forgotten the feeling that being in the real world gave me. I need to be truly interactive and not with a keyboard.

Perhaps the addiction to visual stimulation is one that can be controlled. With hard work I can learnt o limit my time surfing and spend more time actually doing something. I am smart; I can build stuff, make stuff, plant and grow stuff, paint, sing, talk and do things. I am more than a data interface. There is more in life than pixels on a 10” by 17” screen. I can do that.