Attack of the Big Screens

My husband and I ate breakfast in a Tampa hotel restaurant recently surrounded by six big-screen TVs.

They were affixed high on the walls, tuned to various stations, the sound turned off, some with captions, some without. And while the sheer number of screens was unusual, the experience of visual cacophony was not. It seems that everywhere we go these days there is at least one big-screen TV, usually more, flickering and dancing away.

This is especially true when we travel out of state. At home we can find places where there are no TVs – our favorite restaurant has none – or where they are at least confined to the bar.

But the invasion of big screens in airports, casual restaurants, hotel lobbies and even cruise ships has made it difficult to get away from them when traveling. And getting away from them has become increasingly important to both of us even as it has become more challenging.

The question is, I suppose, why it’s so important to us. Our attitude must not be typical. If it were, more people would complain and the hotels and restaurants would stop putting TVs everywhere.

So here’s why I think they bug us so much.

We’re old. Not Grandpa Simpson old but somewhere on the far side of the hill, and we didn’t grow up with omnipresent video players, games and TV. The movement annoys and distracts us because our brains haven’t been trained to ignore it. We have limited immunity to bright, shiny moving things. They make us tired. (What bothers me most is when I catch myself watching the screen when I don’t want to.)

We’re intolerant. Almost everything on TV bores or distresses us in some way. In my view, most news shows have turned into celebrity gossip, unhelpful invective and uninformed speculation; the reality shows are offensively stupid; and American Idol makes me look forward to hearing loss. (Another way of looking at it: TV sucks. Whichever.)

We’re afraid. As TVs get cheaper and lighter, they’re multiplying and invading. Given the trend, the future is potentially terrifying. I think of William Gibson novels, where the TVs identify you via a chip implanted in your head and whisper advertising pitches straight into your brain.

But then, there’s no point in getting overwrought. I don’t consider big-screen TVs to be proof of the decline of civilization, just proof that things are changing in a way I happen to dislike. And this is how life goes.

I also recognize why some people like to have TVs in places where they have to wait around, particularly if they’re alone and bored, as travelers often are. I do wonder, though, if the trend will reverse itself because people are becoming so consumed by their personal electronic devices that it will be pointless to bombard them with public TV displays.

There’s another cranky blog entry to be written about people who are so utterly absorbed by their iPhones, ‘Droids, tablets, Kindles and BlackBerries* that they don’t even notice where they are. But someone else will have to write it because I’m as guilty as a teenager on that score.

And, really, if it comes down to a choice between everyone drifting into their own separate, private electronic worlds and everyone being bombarded simultaneously by the visual pollution of six separate channels of crap, well then let’s hear it for the iPhones.

* Only kidding about the BlackBerries. Nobody has those any more.  


3 thoughts on “Attack of the Big Screens

  1. David Magagna

    I agree with all you say. I might also add the increasing trend of loud, mindless noise (music) in restaurants. It seems the dining experience will somehow be enhanced by the inability to hold a normal conversation with your dinner companions.

    The idiocy of blaring CNN TV in every airport needs no further comment.

  2. Dick Van Saun

    I love the writers comments on the TV in your face problem. Have we all become mindless zombies that require constant nourishment of noise and visual pollution? One gets the impression that some consultant went around the world and advised restaurant owners, professional office managers, car dealer waiting rooms and public places that a loud TV was an attractive addition to the decor and a welcome entertainment appliance. With the exception of Sports Bars and some private residences, loud TV’s are an unwelcome nuisance.

  3. Linda Blakely

    Someone after my own heart! I can’t stand the TVs everywhere. Lately, I find them in every doctor’s and veterinarian’s office. I usually ask the receptionist to turn them down, asking if they notices no one’s watching. They get annoyed – I guess they like the noise.

    One of my favorite Japanese restaurants I no longer go to. There’s not one table I can sit at where the TV is not in my face. The only ones that watch it are the Sushi rollers.

    My racquet club has THREE over the bar and it’s a small area. So ridiculous – it makes the dining room far less attractive. I’m with you Ms. LeBlanc!


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