A Procrastinator’s Kryptonite
My mum was introduced to Mr. TV as a young girl in the early 1970s. Born and raised in Grays, Essex, England, a sort of bleak town with not much to do, I assumed television would’ve changed my mums life! Feeling almost underwhelmed by my mother’s account of her childhood experiences of television; I reevaluated the logic of my expectations. When I asked her if watching television was a family event for her, she chuckled and said ‘it wasn’t really an event, because everyone was used to TV’. She then continued to accentuate, ‘it’s not like I’m really, really old, and was alive when television was first invented!’
Reflecting on those words, I now laugh to myself, not because what my mum had said was false or comedic (although the way a parent can defend their youth is comical in itself) but because I was so naïve to think that I am in the only generation familiar and comfortable with such a technology as television. That is what intrigued me most; my own ignorance.
To be honest, I was expecting to be enthralled with quirky stories of how my mum and her brother used to sit for hours mesmerised by the chunky, black box that sat in their family living room. Although my mum did associate some fond memories with her childhood television, she told the stories in the same way that I would talk about my own first television experiences.
She was about 4 or 5 when she first encountered television, and told me of how her and her brother had gone to their neighbour’s house to watch their new television, as they didn’t have one of their own yet. ‘I remember going to their house to watch TV, and watched Dr. Who, and had nightmares, and because of that Mum and Dad decided to get a television, so that they could control what we were watching’.
It seems the same element of censorship that I experienced all throughout my primary school days was prevalent in my mums early childhood. Just as my sister and I were not allowed to watch TV in the morning before school, or relax beneath the light of our favourite afternoon cartoons until our homework was complete, my mum too had the same parental restraints put on her TV watching regime. This made me realise, the role of the television in my mum’s life, was quite congruent to its role in my life. It was entertaining, informative and to be brutal, a waste of time.
It was clear that my mum felt some nostalgia with her memories of sitting around with her family watching comedy shows on TV, ‘having a good laugh, but then TV is a bad thing as well isn’t it? Because it stops you doing things, you get sucked into it when you could be outside doing more valuable things with your time’. My mum spoke words of universal truth.
Truth is, as advanced as television was in the 1950s, when the 70s hit it began to reveal itself as a procrastinator’s kryptonite. It provided endless hours of entertainment that forced us out of productivity and into an abyss of procrastination. My mum recalls her father going upstairs to bed when it came to TV time as ‘he didn’t like TV, there just wasn’t much on that he enjoyed watching, and instead he’d go and read or sleep’. While I could sense that my mum would’ve enjoyed her fathers company in front of their ‘old-fashioned box’, I think we both realised that my grandfather had predicted televisions ability to hypnotise its audience, long before we had. While most of the time we don’t watch TV with much intent, we do so over doing a multitude of other things because it’s easy, and it’s there!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all anti-television, and I enjoy all sorts of quality programs like Home and Away (please note the sarcasm) but I find it to be such a curiosity; why are we so prone to getting sucked into these glossy TV screens?