It is ironic how I have successfully fended off the temptations of watching TV all my life but am now in real danger of succumbing to the attraction of the Internet.
Come to think of it, these are different media, but do have a lot in common. Both work with a screen. Both provide messages and images. Both involve sedentary human consumption. Worse of all, both are addictive.
And the Internet is much more powerful than TV. With today’s highly sophisticated information and communication technology, the Internet as a medium can do everything that TV is capable of. And more. And better. This is because the user’s engagement with the Internet is highly interactive. Whatever the user fancies, whether it is a friend (real or virtual), an answer, a commodity at the other end of the world, or anything we don’t want to name, the gratification is almost immediate. And whatever we do on this platform, be it just passive browsing or active chitchatting, as long as it gives us pleasure, the tendency to do it again and again will get stronger and stronger. As Norman Doidge said in his book The Brain that Changes Itself, neurons that fire together wire together. Not only that. The satisfaction bar keeps moving up so that it gets more and more difficult to get the same level of pleasure. One has to plunge more and more deeply into the habit. Internet porn is an excellent example.
Fortunately, awareness is the crucial first step towards solving a problem. I do need to keep my habit of passive browsing in check. Otherwise, I can easily just waste as much time, if not more, on the Internet as I would on TV.
Towards the end of the last century, Chris de Burgh tried to warn us of the habit of watching TV by portraying the box as The Devil’s Eye in a song of the same name. In the song, the Devil says:
“Oh side by side
We will cross that Great Divide
’Cos nothing’s gonna save you now from the Devil’s Eye”
If the television is one of Devil’s eye, guess what is the other?