While i was ranting recently about gun control on a nameless social media platform, an ex-member of Twin Oaks called out my hypocracy because my own community bans television. Excellent point.
There is no written anti-television policy at Twin Oaks, but this is a strong cultural norm which few have been willing to challenge. This agreement goes back to our founding in 1967, before the internet and home theater technologies (VCRs, DVDs) could deliver similar content. When we banned TV it really meant something.
There are lots of different stories about why we banned television and why we maintained this restiction. Here are my favorites:
Television is a social toxin. New communities generally fail. The early thinking was that if people were in their rooms watching TV after a long day of working (and our days were much longer 40 years back, because quota was much higher) then they would not be in the living rooms socializing with others who lived in their residence.
Commercials rot your mind. When VCRs, DVDs and the internet started to replace broadcast television, a distinctions was made that TV has commercials and these other medias dont or have far fewer. I have to say as an occasional television watcher i find this compelling. Here at my parents house after watching commercial TV i find myself however briefly wishing i had an SUV or thinking fast food would be tasty – when these thoughts never enter my mind without this influence.
Passive Entertainment. Part of our original thinking around this prohibition was with newer medias you were actually choosing what you were seeing, rather than simply being broadcast at. Certainly, i have spent time in front of television which i regret, because i stayed tuned and watch the next silly thing which came on.
And the commune has changed significantly in the 15 years that i have been around. Lots of people casually watch movies and television shows in their rooms (just not live). These are on our media server now and this did not happen when i moved in. Acorn has gone all the way to watch television in public space, especially some sporting events and they dont seem to be suffering unduly.
i dont preach at others about their addictions. Most people i know understand the risks they are taking. i did not wear seatbelts intentionally until i had a kid, so i am certainly not one to talk about prudence. If you want to watch TV, that is on you.
And if asked if we should have Aljazeera or Russia Today live on campus (which i consider the best stuff on TV currently), i will still decline.