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Is TV a drug?

See also:
See also: Alcohol, Nicotine (Tobacco), Amphetamines (Speed), Caffeine (Coffee).
See also: Hemp as a "drug"

Is television really a drug?
That depends on your definition. The Taliban of Afghanistan have declared television a drug and made it illegal. There has not been any public broadcasting there for over two years. Japanese on the other hand watch more hours of TV per day than people in most other developed countries. In the traditional, pharmacological sense TV is not a drug. It does not cause physical dependence, but neither does marijuana. Like marijuana, TV can be habit forming and it has changed how we experience the world, in ways that are very relevant to the issue of drug abuse:

  1. Stimulation
    Like no other mass medium TV can provide stimulating experiences, without us having to do much for it. By combining moving pictures with sound it engages multiple senses to draw us into a different world. Our brain gradually adjusts to this stimulation by filtering out more data, by reducing attention. As a result, any less stimulating environment may be experienced as "boring". Children who grow up watching several hours of TV a day will have problems concentrating for any length of time, especially when there is little stimulation as when they are listening to a teacher standing in front of a blackboard. TV can become quite harmful when it is abused as a babysitter.
  2. Entertainment
    TV is uniquely suited to entertainment and it has a builtin tendency to turn all forms of content into entertainment, even when it attempts to be educational. There is no borderline any more between commercials and entertainment. Even news programs have had to become more entertaining, at the expense of information. When TV tries to be educational it tends to swerve towards subjects that lend themselves to audiovisual impact and neglects everything else. It's like a teacher who can't see his class and whose payscale is based on his popularity. As children use TV to learn about the world in which they live they use what they see as a model for how to interact with other people. They will seek to entertain or to be entertained. If we abuse TV we will become superficial, uncritical and easy to manipulate.
  3. Speed
    Unlike printed media, TV fully controls the speed at which users have to interact with it. We can read a newspaper article slowly or quickly, pause whenever we like and we can scan the pages in any order, but we can't slow down our TV screens for even one second. TV makes our lives busy, just like time tables, schedules, deadlines. Our life is on fast forward.

    The viewing experience of TV is quite unlike the natural world. Something always happens. A typical Hollywood movie has about 30 cuts per minute, orders of magnitudes faster that only a few decades ago. Inevitably our sense of what is a "normal speed" changes through TV. A program can never afford to slow down, to be less intense, or viewers might reach for their remote controls. The more we get accustomed to the fast-paced life of TV the less we appreciate the benefits of leading a slow-paced life.

Abuse of stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine or the medical prescription of the stimulant Ritalin to millions of American school-children are symptoms of people having become over-stimulated. TV is a major culprit in this. When people are exposed to too much stimulation they become unable to function in low-stimulation environments while stimulant drugs amplify their sensual intake and make them feel "normal" again. For the stimulation-addicted, stimulants become necessary to be able to concentrate, whether they use ritalin, methamphetamine or cocaine.

Rather than being a moral issue, the use of cocaine and shabu is but part of a larger social issue, the seemingly unstoppable cultural change towards a fast-paced, superficial life. Americans see ritalin as a medical solution to a medical problem ("ADD", "ADHD"), but in reality it is so no more and no less than are cocaine and "speed".

The TV kids of today are the speed-freaks of tomorrow. Abuse of cocaine and shabu will not decrease significantly until kids spend less time watching TV or playing video games and instead spend more time doing meaningful things with their parents and each other. Japanese fathers need to spend more time with their children, and cram schools and exam hell must make way for a system that encourages creativity and healthy development.

Cannabis and the fast-paced life style
Cannabis is not a stimulant, but its use may also increase through the mechanisms described above. The experience of the senses is amplified through cannabis and it tends to suppress feelings of boredom. It is often used by people who feel hurt or have feelings of inadequacy. As we force children to grow up too quickly, in an excessively competitive environment, children feel hurt and take marijuana to soothe the pain. If we let children be children and take their education seriously then they will not feel the need to use something that should be reserved for adults only.

written by Hempman

  1. Amusing Ourselves to Death
    by Neil Postman
    ISBN: 0-14-009438-5 (paperback)

    "Television has conditioned us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in spoonfuls of time, to the detriment of rational public discourse and reasoned public affairs."

  2. Faster
    by James Gleick
    Pantheon Books, New York
    ISBN: 0-679-40837-1

    "The acceleration of just about everything"

See also:
See also: Alcohol, Nicotine (Tobacco), Amphetamines (Speed), Caffeine (Coffee).
See also: Hemp as a "drug"

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