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Essay Example 1: An Essay about Television Addiction

TV Addiction

Do you know someone who can’t stop watching television? In this excerpt from The Plug-in Drug, Winn defines the troubling malady named in the title. The essay actually performs double duty as a definition, first explaining addiction, then TV addiction.

The word “addiction” is often used loosely and wryly in conversation. People will refer to themselves as “mystery book addicts” or “cookie addicts.” E.B. White writes for his annual surge of interest in gardening: “We are hooked and are making an attempt to the habit.” Yet nobody really believes that reading mysteries or ordering seeds by catalogue is serious enough to be compared with addictions to heroin or alcohol. The word “addiction” is here used jokingly to denote a tendency to overindulge in some pleasurable activity.

People often refer to being “hooked on TV.” Does this, too, fall into the lighthearted category of cookie eating and other pleasure that people pursue with unusual intensity, or is there a kind television viewing that falls into the more serious category of destructive addiction?
When we think about addiction to drugs or alcohol, we frequently focus on negative aspects, ignoring the pleasures that accompany drinking or drug-taking. And yet the essence of any serious addiction is a pursuit of pleasure, a search for a “high” that normal life does not supply. It is only the inability to function without the addictive substances that is dismaying, the dependence of a organism upon a certain experience and an increasing inability to function normally without it. Thus a person will take two or three drinks at the end of the day not merely for the pleasure drinking provides, but also because he “doesn’t feel normal” without them.

An addict does not merely pursue a pleasurable experience and need to experience it in order to function normally. He needs to repeat it again and again. Something about that particularly experience makes life without it less than complete. Other potential pleasurable experiences are no longer possible, for under the spell of he addictive experience, his life is peculiarly distorted. The addict craves an experience and yet he is never really satisfied. The organism may be temporarily sated, but soon it begins to crave again. Finally, a serious addiction is distinguished from a harmless pursuit of pleasure by its distinctly destructive elements. A heroin addicts, for instance, leads a damaged life: His increasing need for heroin in increasing does prevents him from working, from maintaining relationships, from developing in human ways. Similarly an alcoholic’s is narrowed and dehumanized by his dependence in alcohol.

Let us consider television viewing in the lights of the conditions that defines serious addictions.

Not unlike drugs or alcohol, the television experiences allow the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. The worries and anxieties of reality are as effectively differed by becoming absorbed in a television program as by going on a “trip” induced by drugs or alcohol. And just as alcoholics are only inchoately aware of there addiction, feeling that they can control their drinking more than they really do. (“ I can cut it out anytime I want—I just like to have three or four drinks before dinner”), people similarly overestimate their control over television watching. Even as they put off other activities to spend hour after hour watching television, they feel they could easily resume living in a different, less passive style. But somehow or other while the television set is present in there homes, the click doesn’t sound. With television pleasure available, those other experiences seem less attractive, more difficult somehow.

A heavy viewer (a college English instructor) observes: “I find television almost irresistible. When the set is on, I cannot ignore it. I can’t turn it off. I feel sapped, will-less, enervated. As I reach out to turn off the set, the strength goes out of my arms. So I sit there for hours and hours.”

The self-confessed television addict often feels he “ought” to do other things—but the fact that he doesn’t read and doesn’t plant his garden or sew or crochet or play games or have conversations means that those activities are no longer as desirable as television viewing. In a way a heavy viewer’s life is as imbalanced by his television “habit” as a drug addict or an alcoholic’s. He is living in a holding pattern, as it were passing up the activities that lead to growth or development or a sense of accomplishment. This is one reason people talk about their television viewing so rueful, so apologetically. They are aware that it is an unproductive experience, that almost any other endeavor is more worthwhile by any human measure.

Finally, it is the adverse effect of television viewing on the lives of so many people that defines it as a serous addiction. The television habit distorts the sense of time. It renders other experiences vague and curiously unreal while taking on a greater reality for itself. It weakens relationships by reducing and sometimes eliminating normal opportunities for talking, for communicating.

And yet television does not satisfy, else why would the viewer continue to watch hour after hour, day after day? “The measure of heath,” writes Lawrence Kubie, “is flexibility… and especially the freedom to cease when sated.” But the television viewer can never be sated with his television experiences--- they do not provide the true nourishment that satiation requires--- and thus he finds that he cannot stop watching.




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Essays About Television Addiction