Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Vast Wasteland of Internet and TV

I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials--many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.
--from the "Vast Wasteland" speech by FCC Chairman Newton Minow

Most modern readers would probably be stunned to learn that the famous "Vast Wasteland" speech is from 1961. It's more than fifty years old. Yes, TV was as stupid then as it is now, it's just that back then there were only three or four channels. Newton Minow had no idea how truly vast this wasteland would eventually become.

Now, we writers don't just have TV competing for our attention. We have the internet, offering us yet another vast wasteland of distraction. At least television never pretended to be anything more than a purely passive medium. Sites like Facebook offer us the illusion of social interaction in addition to wasting our time.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: few things are more dangerous to your writing career than television and the internet. Turn off both and get back to writing.