Long time ago television entered people’s lives bringing considerable changes with it. The incredible invention turned the world upside down as well as produced a burst of versatile emotions. The novelty has greatly influenced people’s life and introduced totally unexpected twists. According to the statistics, the number of households in the USA which have at least one television is more than 98%. Indisputably, this number shows that television is a significant part of every person, family and society’s well-being. People are exhilarated about the invention, yet they often tend to neglect its downsides. Hence, the invention of television should be examined from the perspective of cause-effect relations, which will help to see double-sided consequences of the television’s impact.
The date which is considered to be the beginning of the long story about television is 1873. In his article, Lehman observes the most important dates related to the development of television. He also provides names of researchers whose discoveries were the key elements in the process of television development and made a considerable contribution to the invention:
The concept of television, in the form of electromechanical television was created by Willoughby Smith in 1873 when he discovered the photoconductivity of the element selenium and then further experiments through Paul Gottlieb Nipkow and his invention of the scanning disk in 1884. John Logie Baird demonstrated televised moving images in 1926 and in 1927 Philo Farnsworth created the image dissector. Paul Nipkow was 20 years old when he patented the first electromechanical television system in 1884, however he never built a working model (Lehman).
After all stages of development, television entered the life of every family. The news about the incredible invention was spreading so quickly from country to country that everybody wanted to see and have it. It was like a bomb located in all places simultaneously. The feelings were running high to experience the new system of communication and transmitting information in black and white colors. The effect on the world was more potent than the inventors of the television had dreamt about. This gave a further impulse and inspired many specialists to bring the invention to an average family. Yet, the spread of television brought not just positive moments. It has brought negative outcomes, too.
Talking about advantages, the first and the biggest one is that television may be used as the biggest source where one may get information on any topic ranging from philosophy to nature of chemical substances used in food production. Moreover, the information about what is broadcast on television is usually classified conveniently so that all types of viewers have a possibility to choose from a great variety of channels and programs. Undeniably, television aims to satisfy the needs of every specific viewer in all age groups, whether it is a child or a grandparent. According to Lee, “At best, TV, the “great equalizer” offers a wide variety of programming: up-to date news, weather and sports, quality programs, entertainment and opportunities to expand one’s knowledge about a topic” (313). This means that television may enhance the process of learning, while providing all necessary information in front of the screen and sitting in the chair. One may draw a parallel between television and the mirror, as they both represent reality. Mirror is a reflection of a particular thing, television reflects contemporaneity. Therefore, television’s main function is informative. Sometimes it is even said that “information remains a powerful medicine”, which means that lack of information about the particular subject may end with dismal results. Moreover, everybody knows the saying “Who owns information, owns the world” and television makes its contribution in this process.
Second, television helps to travel around the world without actually traveling. Viewers do not need to leave their homes and apartments. What they need is to switch on the TV and experience the long journey. While everybody says that the world is so huge, with its large mountains, vast terrains, and oceans, television gathers everything in a “black box” which shows whatever you like. All distances and measures are shortened in television’s dimensions as everything is in front of a viewer. Buonanno states “We say stop here…stays here...go back, we walk, drive, fly, sail: we travel on the television screen. Switching channels, especially in an environment reached by satellite television, often corresponds to a change in territory and therefore to the experience of a delocalization that takes on the meaning of an indirect or imaginary travel” (103). Indeed, imaginary travel may bring a lot of uplifting emotions. Viewers have a possibility to choose what place to visit and are always informed about what happens in the world and in a particular country. Therefore, television broadens viewers’ knowledge and expands their outlook, which can be characterized as an educational function of watching television.
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Third, one of the most crucial aspects concerning television functions is entertainment. Without a doubt, television has a profound impact on our leisure time. It is a must to have at least one TV set at home, otherwise your family may be considered a non-traditional one. The invention of television brought a lot of anxiety to people who were anticipating a miracle. The dream came true – television is accessible and everybody can experience a range of emotions while watching television. In terms of entertainment, a great variety of channels offer different programs out of which viewers can choose the best according to his or her taste. Moreover, this form of entertainment is considered to be one the cheapest . A person needs just a TV set to access the whole world of amusement and entertainment . It is a foregone conclusion that television should not be on the list of unnecessary luxuries. Therefore, one more advantage of television is entertainment that brings quality time.
On the other hand, television has its cons. Despite the fact it affects people’s life in a positive way, it has a number of downsides. The first one is related to the physical aspect of watching television. The problem is that more and more people tend to be obsessed with movies, series, programs, and shows, which results in spending long hours in front of the television. Some people watch TV all day long. While they are staring at the screen, their eyes are tense. As people become addicted to such source of entertainment, their attention span and eyesight becomes worse, especially among children. According to Bryant and Zillman, “The exposure to television can lead to such outcomes as reduced attention span, lack of interest in school, or children becoming passive “zombie viewers” (397). Moreover, lack of physical exercises brings nothing but flabby muscles and obesity, while people usually sit long hours in front of their TV screens and eat hamburgers. This is the problem people face nowadays. Thus, television is a form of entertainment that may spoil people’s health.
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Another downside of television is its negative impact on people’s productivity. Viewers just sit in front of screens and forget about daily routine. Sometimes TV shows are so interesting that viewers prefer not to do anything planned. For example, Naik suggests that “If a person spends too much time in watching television every day, then he will become lazy and shrink work. He would like to sit idle and waste his time” (48). Laziness and lack of interest in something else are the consequences of watching television. If to count all hours an average viewer spends in front of a TV screen, the numbers will be stunning. This means that instead of complaining about shortage of money, viewers could have easily spent quality time making some money. However, many viewers will ignore this opportunity. It seems the question about watching television is in balance and limitation. If television is only an addition to an ordinary working day, its negative effect is believed to be minimal.
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One more disadvantage is that television shows violence. Not only do people have a possibility to see violence in the streets, but also on TV. Criminality and patterns of deviational behavior often enter screens and have their powerful impact on people, especially children. During the first years of life children just “absorb” information and do not “filtrate” it, which produces impairing effect. Even the statistic says that “2 of 3 programs contain some violence”. This means that through television violence has completely entered our lives. It is everywhere on TV: in ads, talk shows, cartoons, and films. However, the worst thing is that people do not feel this edge. For many adults, it is hard to differentiate what good is for them, not talking about children. As a result, more and more people accept violence in their life and do not even perceive such behavior as deviation.
It goes without saying that the invention of television has brought advantages and disadvantages to our lives. One may trace both positive and negative effects on the world and people living in it. The best words to describe the consequences of television were once said by Steve Jobs, “I think it's brought the world a lot closer together, and will continue to do that. There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything. The most corrosive piece of technology that I've ever seen is called television - but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.”