We hear and read a lot about the relationship challenges posed by technology. We’ve all seen a table full of teens in a coffee shop who, instead of interacting with one another, are all staring at and fiddling with their phones. We see things like this and we become concerned for human communication in the future. I understand those concerns and I have another. It’s related to the technology issue because it involves the way people watch television and it’s also related to the relationship issue because it involves conversation.
The ability to DVR television shows, and/or watch them on-line after they air, leads to problems with communication. Here’s what the problem looks like: A group of people is sitting around at work during a break or at lunch and conversation turns to a television show that aired on prime time the previous night. Immediately, someone at the table begins to voice a protest, “NO! don’t talk about it, I haven’t watched it yet!” It aggravates me to no end. We need something to talk about besides the weather, Obama care, and gun control. By the time the protestor gets around to watching the show, the rest of us will have moved on and an important moment is lost forever. We miss out on processing the story together and we lose the opportunity to see it from the perspective of others. In short, we are robbed of one of the rare chances we might have for deep and meaningful conversation in the midst of a busy day. The same problem can even lead to missing out on the shallow and not-so-meaningful semi-conversation we might have over social media.
We need conversation etiquette covering the use of the DVR and on-line television. I have some suggestions:
For live, face to face conversation:
1) Once a show has aired on prime time, it is open for discussion.
2) If you chose to DVR a show that comes up in conversation, you should politely excuse yourself from the room if you do not want to know what happens.
3) Do not stay and hum loudly with your hands over your ears. It is annoying.
For social media:
1) Do not post about the content of a show during the show–watch and enjoy it for pity sake and get off your phone or computer!(This does not apply to sports, speeches, or political debates–watching running commentary about those things can be MUCH more fun than watching the actual events.)
2) Once a show is over, post only basic observations without revealing content. There may be people in different time zones on your feed.
3) If you simply must post or burst a blood vessel, type SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of your post.
4) If you DVR’d the program, or plan to watch on-line later, stay off social media right after the show has aired and/or don’t read content with the SPOILER ALERT label.
If we all agree to follow these few simple rules, perhaps we will all be able to get along and remain human for a bit longer…maybe.