The Living Room Is Dying
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Student Life

The Living Room Is Dying

"The more connected we get, the more alone we become". #savethelivingroom

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The Living Room Is Dying
School Advisor

A couple of years ago the hit animated comedy South Park aired an episode in its 18th season that, despite it’s typical mix of edgy, inappropriate and equal opportunity offensive humor, contained a message that deeply resonated with me. The message of family togetherness and spending quality time together. Specifically, quality time together watching TV.

I’m from the tail end of Gen X, the generation that experienced the birth of MTV and the Mac, to the first brick sized cell phones and eventually our smartphones. We are quite possibly the last generation to grow up with the living room TV phenomenon. As the world became more connected, and the means for electronic stimulus and instant communication grew, it seemed as though actual human interaction and shared experience dwindled.

When we were kids the family would spend most nights sitting together in the living room watching TV or a movie. Pop would turn on reruns of Star Trek, Mom would watch episodes of Punky Brewster with us, and we’d laugh as Dad excitedly yelled at the football game on Sunday. Saturday night, we’d drive to the video store, rent a new release VHS movie, and fire up the popcorn popper. The living room was the place to be. And even though all of this is still possible, albeit with new and improved technology, how many reading this now can say their family still (or ever) does this?

South Park was making a larger point, however. A commentary on how entertainment has changed, specifically the YouTube phenomenon. Viral videos on Facebook and Twitter dominate the scene. Many kids no longer actually play video games. Instead, they watch others on YouTube play them and provide color commentary. We watch our favorite shows on mobile devices alone, and when convenient. We no longer connect together, face to face, through our entertainment, but through 140 character comments on social media. As Kyle of South Park so aptly puts it, the living room is dying.

“It's the holiday season, but the good times are ending.

Because what matters most isn't what's good,

It's what's trending.

This younger generation, with their eyes and ears glued,

What's trending to them is trenders who trend on YouTube.

Comments on commentators, it's all changing so fast,

Playing Xbox with your brother is just a thing of the past.

Now, with ma and her iPad and dad trending or trying,

All the family is scattered and the living room's dying.

Because it wasn't the outdoors or church or even trips to go ski.

What brought families together most was a good old TV.

Now we watch things by ourselves and just tweet what we saw,

And if you try to complain, you get called a Grandpa!

But now let me tweet this for you all to comment upon.

The more connected we get, the more alone we become.

If you want change like I do and feel the same gloom,

Then please follow this trend.

#savethelivingroom”

-Kyle Broflovski

As parents, we are guilty of perpetuating this new trend with our kids and families. It’s the new norm. It’s what’s cool. We allow them to be entertained in these new ways, with healthy time limits and filtered content, of course. But how often do we get the family together on purpose to watch some TV together? How often does it happen on its own? Is the living room the place to be, or merely the room we pass through on the way to our own rooms?

I, too, am guilty of this. My older boys are part of this group, and it’s because I never saw it coming as a new parent. However, when our younger girls were growing up, I allowed and encouraged them to watch TV despite all the popular rhetoric of how it rots their brains. When they were little, we watched fun and educational kids' shows together. And you know something? That rhetoric is false. I saw my kids learning and imagining, excited about knowledge, letters and numbers. I saw them play and act out their favorite shows, draw and craft like they saw on TV. It doesn’t rot their brains, it builds them!

Within the last year or so, I decided that I would encourage the evening TV time with my boys. This wasn't only to get them out of their room and off of YouTube, but to share with them TV that I enjoyed over the years. So far, it has worked beyond my expectations! My middle schooler eagerly awaits every evening for me to sit with him and binge watch my favorite sci-fi shows from years past, now his favorite shows of all time. I can only smile when he becomes so immersed in the plot, guessing what will happen next, imagining ahead and making connections to previous episodes. He talks to me when we aren’t watching, his wheels turning, his imagination soaring. You absolutely cannot convince me that this type of stimulation even remotely compares to what they get watching a “Let’s Play” video!

I’ve even found ways to enjoy TV time with my high school son, albeit with more difficulty given his age’s proclivity to friends and alone time. On Sunday and Monday nights we watch football together. He is a huge fan, and has an amazing mental capacity for player stats and team matchups. We’re co-managing a fantasy football team, too, which has added the incentive to root for our teams and players. Football may not produce the imagination that other TV does, but the togetherness of it is still impossible to replace.

I encourage you all to bring your families together for some quality TV time. Fight back against this new age of connectivity that doesn’t produce togetherness, but isolation. This entertainment that doesn’t feed the brain or stimulate the imagination, but merely gives a momentary junk food like fix. Do not let the living room continue to die, save it!

#savethelivingroom

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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