TV as escapism

opinion
October 31, 2013
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cassandra Jeffery
The Silhouette

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. Reflecting on my four-year term here at McMaster. Reflecting on the countless part-time jobs I’ve held since the prime of my teenage youth. Reflecting on the joys and pitfalls my young life has been exposed to; the stress and temptations that hinder my ability to get any productive studying done.

Amidst all of my reflection, I realized that I indulge in a certain level of escapism whenever I find myself at the breaking point of full-fledged hysteria, which unfortunately, seems to be more often than not. For example, one of my biggest vices has to be television. I could escape with a good drama or rom-com for hours.

Granted I’m not always allotted such a large time frame of TV enjoyment, I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps I indulge just a tad too much in the soothing sounds of laugh tracks and witty dialogue. I’ll use my favourite show as background noise while I study. I’ll take multiple “snack breaks” just to have an excuse to pop on an episode of something involving vampires. In fact, Gilmore Girls is periodically distracting me right now as I type away.

The point is, TV is in my life for better or worse and as much I would like to teeter away from my bad habit of turning my educated brain to mush, I just can’t help it.

There’s a lot to be said for escapism. In an academic and social sense it’s mostly rejected as a legitimate concept that discourages critical thinking and educational development. However, I don’t believe that my avid TV connoisseur lifestyle is a means for intervention.

TV as a form of escapism allows me to shut down and forget everything going on in my life at least for just a little while. Otherwise, I’m stuck reflecting (more like overanalyzing) every thought that comes to mind—cue hysterical fit of tears and frustration. I’m not suggesting that this escapism is necessarily the best choice though, as it certainly impacts my time management skills when I decide to watch two hours of television instead of working through my readings for class the next day.

However, in light of everything, I try to view TV as a culturally defining factor in my life. Yes, I understand that we live in a privileged North American, middle class world where we’ve legitimized the socially buy viagra online beloved concept of “me-time.” A concept that exploited sweatshop workers in Bangladesh simply could not fathom as a legitimate use of time. I get it. I could be using my valuable time much more constructively. What can I say? I’m a product of the time.

But in all seriousness, right now TV trumps reading one hundred pages of a philosophy text. Maybe as I ripen with age I’ll reflect on this moment and change my TV viewing habits forever. Now that to me is a legitimate excuse to keep on escaping with How I Met Your Mother.

I’m confident when I say that I’m not the only avid TV watcher out there because media, television specifically, is so ingrained in our society (a term coined pop culture) that it becomes difficult to escape from escapism.

However, what is there to be said on other forms of escapism that are most likely widely used although not as culturally accepted as television in the form of escapism?

For example, critics are more likely to jump down the throat of a heroin addict than someone who watches one-too-many Seinfeld re-runs. Although it may be difficult to refrain from harsh judgement at the use of heroin as a form of escapism, I believe it’s important to understand that individual’s cultural context.

Engaging in a drug such as heroin isn’t a good choice for anyone but for someone who is using the drug it probably has become the most accessible, most logical and most culturally contextual form of escaping from their everyday. Instead of instantly explaining to a heroin user that what they are engaging in is wrong, it’s best to take a step back and talk to the person, get to the root of the problem. Why are they in fact using heroin as a form of escape?

Now I can’t say that a TV watching addiction is on the same level as a heroin addiction but it helps to understand that both scenarios are derived from two different individuals who share different world experiences and different reasons as to why they need “escaping.”

Furthermore, through understanding cultural context and alleviating judgment we can begin to slowly alter forms of escapism to encompass a more positive outcome. The heroin user might gradually lower the dosage or switch to a less “harmful” substance. And I might be able to gradually lower my television intake.

Despite the severity of escapism, we all take part in this process in some form or another and I believe escapism can be used both negatively and positively.

What I believe to be most important, though, is understand why someone engages in a form of escapism in the first place and then reflecting on your individual interaction with escapism in order to decide what’s best for you.

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