Two stories of the irresistable pull of the magic screen

TelevisionYou’re just too good to be true.  Can’t take my eyes off of you.

I was at a wedding at which a 10-minute photo montage of the bride and groom was shown at the rehearsal dinner. Everyone in attendance watched. Tears were shed. It was a great moment. The next day after the wedding, the flat-screen TV over the fireplace in the room in which dinner was served showed the same video on auto-repeat. Over the course of next five-plus hours the thing must have run 300 times. I found myself glancing at it for periods of time even to the point that I knew which pictures were next in line.  I wasn’t the only one either.  Even others who had been with me at the rehearsal dinner were doing it. Over and over the same wonderful pictures rolled by with people staring, mouths agape at them. They were a beautiful couple, to be sure, but come on.  The power of the picture tube is strong, my friends.

You see this phenomenon every day with the “crawl” at the bottom of any news or sports program. You watch the crawl even though you’ve seen the news that the Mariners beat the Angels 3-2 in a game you don’t care about. You already know the “breaking news” that Obama won the presidency, that Bernie Madoff is a crook, and that Michael Jackson is dead, but you find yourself reading it anyway.

What is it about the glowing blue tube that prevents us from averting our eyes and turning away or turning it off?

Is this what these things are supposed to be used for?

Walk down the aisle of any mode of public transportation and count the number of people using laptop computers. As you do, calculate the percentage of them playing solitaire or some other game. If it doesn’t exceed 50%, you should be surprised. I’ve been was 6 for 10  and 3 for 4 during the last few weeks on the train cars I walked through on the jam-packed 2:35 outbound.  In the days when I was frequently flying, the same percentage generally held, too, although it was admittedly somewhat lower in first class.

We routinely carry more technological firepower than was used to send men to the moon by a factor of two or three, and it’s often being used for mind-numbing entertainment at best, and I’m not even talking about its use as a DVD player. Is the desire for the mind to be occupied with something, anything that strong?  Is sitting silently even for a few moments not an option? Did these people somehow not know they were going to be on a public conveyance for a period of time and are therefore unprepared for the trip? Is typing an email (or heaven forbid, writing an actual letter) to their mothers out of the question?

(But please, don’t talk on your cell phone as an alternative to playing computer games.)

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